The UB Volleyball team takes the court again on Saturday, August 20 (2pm at Alumni Arena, free) in an exhibition match against Colgate. The Bulls hope to build on a 6–12 MAC record last year, which was perhaps a weaker record than it would have been if two players expected to contribute heavily — senior Monika Šimková and junior Abby Leigh — hadn’t missed all or most of the season due to illness or injury.
There were a number of bright spots for the Bulls last year. Freshman setter Mandy Leigh (Abby’s sister) was the only setter the Bulls used, she averaged a hair under 10 assists per set and the Bulls finished 5th in the MAC in hitting percentage. Junior middle blocker Courtney Okwara continued to develop into a weapon on both offense and defense, finishing 7th in the MAC in hitting percentage and finishing 4th in the MAC in total blocks. The Bulls biggest win was over Connecticut, who would end the season with RPI #68. And one other bright spot came when Buffalo faced the eventual MAC champion Ball State at Alumni Arena and led 14–12 in the fifth set ... unfortunately the Cardinals scored the next four points to take the win.
Let’s look at the roster, position by position:
Mandy Leigh, now a sophomore, looks to improve on a strong freshman year. In addition to the aforementioned accomplishments, Leigh led the team in aces with 30. This year, she has more offensive weapons to work with than last year (more on that next). The Bulls also have senior setter Emma Puzausky, who has played only sparingly during her career.
A year ago, with the absence of Šimková, Buffalo had only two outside hitters on the roster, sophomore Milla Malik and freshman Maria Futey, who both played virtually every point. If either (or both) were having a weak game, there was no depth, no one to turn to. This year the Bulls will have four outside hitters.
Futey (now a sophomore) averaged 2.55 points per set, and was second on the team in aces with 27.
6–0 freshman Lauren Otten comes to Buffalo from St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, and her club team as a 17 year old finished 6th in the nation.
Transfer Katrin Trebichavská is a 5–10 sophomore who played two years at Bowling Green, picking up a career high 17 kills against Northern Illinois. In spring volleyball for UB, KT displayed an extremely strong arm and a very potent jump serve.
6–0 Cali Assaley, a fifth year player, is a transfer from Louisiana-Monroe, where she set the school record with 347 kills in a season a year ago.
In addition to Okwara, who is now a senior, Buffalo will look to senior Abby Leigh at the middle blocker position. Leigh, who stands 6–2, has been a starter for most of her career at UB. She has a career high of 16 kills against Akron and 11 blocks against Western Michigan.
6–2 junior Olivia DeBortoli has developed into a defensive weapon, averaging over 1 block per set, good enough for 6th in the MAC. Her career high is 9 blocks in a match.
Tehya Shaw, a 6–0 freshman from York, PA, was named her regional Division I Player of the Year as a high school senior, but is unlikely to play this year due to a surgery.
Junior Emma Gielas has developed into a dependable scorer, finishing 2nd on the Bulls in kills per set both of her previous two years. Among Buffalo’s pin hitters, Gielas had by far the highest hitting percentage at 0.271.
Stacia Gollogly, a 6–1 junior, is the other right side. Gollogly had a career high 15 kills and hit 0.448 against Western Michigan last year. Gollogly has also played middle blocker and outside hitter for the Bulls.
Senior libero Jenna Sonnenberg led the team with 3.34 digs per set, and a high of 23 digs. Junior Emilie Davis has played only sparingly during her UB career. Juliana Lopez played one year at Fresno City College before transferring to Buffalo, on a team that was undefeated in conference play. Hayley Montoya is a junior transfer from Canisius, where she appeared in 22 matches and had a high of 15 digs.
- Cecelia Blanchard joins the coaching staff after being a graduate assistant at her alma mater Virginia Commonwealth last year. Blanchard is a former professional player. Delaney Gallagher is now in her 2nd year as assistant coach at UB, having played at Louisiana-Monroe and also spent one year as a graduate assistant there.
- Scott Smith starts his fourth year as head coach. He had previously been assistant coach at UB for four years under head coach Blair Brown Lipsitz, so this is Smith’s eighth year in the program. In Smith’s first year as head coach in 2019, after the Bulls had started 1–5 in the MAC, Smith led the team on a 7–3 run, qualified for the MAC tournament, and then produced the program’s first ever win in the MAC Tournament “round of eight”.
- New unis: the Bulls will wear long-sleeved uniforms again (as most teams do), but the white jersey sleeves will fade to blue below the elbows, and the blue jersey sleeves will fade to white below the elbows. Last year, the name BUFFALO on the back of the jersey was at the shoulders and above the uniform number. This year, BUFFALO is below the uniform number.
- Rules change for 2022: teams begin with two video coach’s challenges in all matches. If a challenge results in the reversal of the original call, the team will retain the challenge. If the original call is confirmed or there isn’t video evidence to overturn the original call, the coach loses the challenge. If a match reaches the fifth set, each team will be awarded an additional challenge. Teams can have a maximum of two challenges in the fifth set.
- It seems that the last two years, I have been pronouncing Stacia Gollogly’s last name wrong. Fortunately, I have been spelling it properly. The final letter L is silent (the other two Ls are not silent). Silent L is a rare thing, it could be that UB leads the nation in silent L’s, but I’ll let someone else do that research. Kudos to all the announcers who got it right.
- Buffalo will host two home non-conference tournaments at Alumni Arena (August 26–27 and September 9), they will play two road non-conference tournaments, and then they play the usual 9 home and 9 away MAC matches. All home matches are free.
- Malik, the team’s leading scorer a year ago, has apparently retired from volleyball. As a freshman, Malik was second team All-MAC and on the All-MAC freshman team.
- Hannah Jacoby, a freshman libero last year, who was second on the team in digs per set, does not return.