The UB Volleyball team opened their 2022 season with a four set victory over University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Bulls played a very weak first set, but controlled the match after that, with very balanced scoring and a total team effort.
In the first set, Buffalo and UAB found themselves deadlocked at 10–10, but then the Blazers went on a 15–5 run to take the set. Buffalo was the victim of 3 UAB aces in the set, plus the Bulls made a lot of attack errors.
With Buffalo leading 4–3 in the second set, senior middle blocker Abby Leigh broke the set wide open. In a series where Buffalo outscored UAB 6–1, Leigh accounted for five of those Buffalo points. Leigh had three kills and two solo blocks in that stretch. Leigh, who missed most of last season with a concussion, certainly looked like she had fully recovered. The Bulls would cruise to a 25–16 victory, holding UAB to a 0.000 hitting percentage.
That momentum started by Leigh carried over into the third set, with Buffalo eventually taking a 20–12 lead, before winning the set by five.
In the fourth set, tied at 18–18, kills by sophomore outside hitter Katrin Trebichavská and junior right side Emma Gielas plus an attack error by the Blazers gave Buffalo a three point lead. Another kill from KT and two kills from Gielas put the Bulls at match point. This resulted in the Play of the Match™, which belonged to the entire team, as Buffalo’s tough serving (from Gielas) and attacking prevented UAB from running their offense during this point and forced UAB to constantly scramble to get the ball over the net. And after a rally, fifth year outside hitter Cali Assaley pounded a rocket down on the UAB side, about 12 feet from the net, untouched.
Gielas was the Bulls leading scorer with 17 points coming on 15 kills and four block assists. She had plenty of help on offense, as Trebichavská had 11 kills, Leigh had 10, and Assaley and junior middle blocker Stacia Gollogly each had 9 kills. Buffalo hit 0.284 for the match. Assaley did not make an attack error hitting 0.375, Gielas hit 0.478, and Gollogly had only two attack errors and hit 0.350. The team in total hit 0.284, and sophomore setter Mandy Leigh picked up 45 assists.
As sharp as the Bulls were on offense, their defense shut down two of UAB’s top weapons. UAB outside hitter Fernanada Maida was held to just 7 points (Maida was first team All-Conference USA least year and preseason first team All-Conference this year) and Buffalo held UAB outside hitter Alex Kells (second team All-Conference USA last year) to just five points. Gollogly had 5 blocks, while Abby Leigh and Gielas each had 4 blocks.
Junior libero Hayley Montoya had 19 digs (a transfer from Canisius making her first UB start) and senior defensive specialist Jenna Sonnenberg and Trebichavská each had 10 digs.
One area that Buffalo struggled with most of the match was serving where they picked up 14 service errors, 6 from Trebichavská and 4 from Montoya. Buffalo only scored 3 aces.
- The Buffalo Invite tournament continues on Saturday, August 27, 2022 as Buffalo faces Xavier at 2pm at Alumni Arena and then faces Cleveland State at 6pm at Alumni Arena. Both matches are free. Xavier has won two matches, both in five sets, over UAB and Cleveland State.
- Sophomore Maria Futey played defensive specialist after being an outside hitter a year ago. Futey had 8 digs. Futey and Trebichavská each had a designed back row attack ... neither scored, but maybe the occasional back row attack will be part of the Buffalo playbook this year, after being nearly absent over the last several years.
- Senior middle blocker Courtney Okwara was not in uniform.
- Most of the Bulls players (maybe all of them, I didn’t really see) wore a small wristband with 14 on it, or had 14 written on their hand with a marker. 14 is the uniform number of Monika Ŝimková. No UB player wears that number this year.
- No more COVID rules. Both teams change sides after each set, and if there is a fifth set, teams will change side when one team reaches 8 points. The previous two years, the COVID rules were in place, and teams did not switch sides. Also, there were ball boys/ball girls during the match (which also didn’t happen because of COVID).
- Personal note from the author to my audience: this web site ubbullrun.com will shut down at the end of September. I intend to keep writing these volleyball (and womens’ basketball) reports after that, if I can find a place to publish them. I will let you know once I figure out where that will be.