The UB Volleyball team dropped an exhibition match against Colgate, winning the first set and then losing the next four sets, the last two sets being two-point wins by Colgate. The Red Raiders are consistently one of the top mid-major teams in the East, ranking #98 in RPI a year ago.
Buffalo’s likely regular season starters faced off (what I presume are) Colgate’s likely regular season starters in the first set, and Buffalo came away with the win. The Bulls did so without senior middle blocker Courtney Okwara, who led the team in total blocks and hitting percentage a year ago. Okawara was not in uniform. Buffalo took a 22–19 lead, Colgate scored the next 5 points, but then Buffalo scored the last four points of the set. At 24–24, a tough serve by junior libero Hayley Montoya led to a Buffalo point to break the tie, and a tip from junior right side Emma Gielas gave Buffalo the win.
In that set, Gielas and sophomore setter Mandy Leigh led the way for the Bulls. Gielas attacked well, and Leigh, not normally a big scorer, had at least 5 points in the set. Four of Leigh’s points came on setter dumps, and she had one solo block. Her block was the Play of the Match™, as Leigh anticipated where a Buffalo overpass would go, that the Colgate players would try to slam the ball down, and Leigh was in the perfect spot to block the Colgate attack.
Buffalo struggled to slow down a powerful Colgate offense in set 2, losing 25–21, and double-struggled in set 3, losing 25–13. In the fourth set, Buffalo fell behind 16–13, but three tough serves by junior middle blocker Olivia DeBortoli helped Buffalo tie the score. Buffalo again fell behind 24–21, but then three tough serves by junior middle blocker Stacia Gollogly helped Buffalo tie the set. The Bulls led 11–9 in the fifth set, but Colgate went on a 6–2 run to take the set.
The big surprise to me was the play of backup setter Emma Puzausky. Now a senior, she did not see playing action as a junior, and also did not play the second half of her sophomore year. In my opinion, she just wasn’t as accurate as Buffalo’s other setters, but she played three sets against Colgate, and I thought this was the most accurate setting I have seen from her. At least for this match, she and Mandy Leigh were equally effective setting. Puzausky also had at least two blocks, one definite advantage of a setter standing 6–1. Puzausky has just 3 blocks in her career.
One place where both setters struggled a little was getting the ball on-target to their middle blockers, senior Abby Leigh (Mandy’s sister), Gollogly and DeBortoli.
Gielas seems to be in mid-season form, in both this match and in an intra-squad/alumni match last weekend. Sophomore outside hitter Katrin Trebichavská displayed tremendous velocity on her serves and attacks, and scored well, but sometimes (especially serving) her accuracy was off. She seems to be a “high-risk, high-reward” style of player. Gollogly looked comfortable playing both middle blocker and right-side, and made some strong plays on defense and attacking. Sophomore outside hitter Maria Futey attacked well, and also played defensive specialist, and at least on one occasion, she was set the ball in the back row for an attack, something we don’t normally see from the Bulls. Fifth-year player Cali Assaley scored well from the outside hitter position and also at right side.
- Kill for the libero: it happened as an accident, but it as they say, “they all count”. After Futey rescued the ball beyond the end-line, senior libero Jenna Sonnenberg bumped the high in the air and over to Colgate. Both Colgate defenders yelled “I got it” and neither played the ball, which landed in-bounds between them.
- Buffalo coach Scott Smith used three players at libero: Sonnenberg, Montoya (a transfer from Canisius) and sophomore Julianna Lopez (a transfer from Fresno City College).
- We don’t see DeBortoli or Gollogly serve much, so it’s hard to know what to expect when they get a chance to serve. Based on what they did from the service line yesterday, maybe we should see them serve more. Neither DeBortoli or Gollogly have scored an ace in the regular season. Gollogly had an ace in the fourth set, while DeBortoli had a “near ace” and both sent over some tough serves.
- Buffalo opens the regular season on Friday, August 26 against University of Alabama at Birmingham at 6pm. It’s part of the Buffalo Invite tournament, which will conclude on Saturday, August 27 with two matches (against Xavier at 2pm and Cleveland State at 6pm). All matches are at Alumni Arena and are free.
- Colgate sophomore middle blocker Hristina Georgieva stands 6–7, making her tied for the tallest volleyball player I have seen at Alumni Arena. Buffalo had a 6–7 player named Alexa Manuel in 2010, who was injured most of the year and appeared in only 7 matches. Georgieva only played in the fourth set, and didn’t have much of an impact. (Wisconsin’s 6–8 middle blocker Dana Rettke, the reigning National Player of the Year, is the tallest player I have seen in person, but she did not play at Alumni Arena).