This just in: Abby Leigh is having a monster season.
You probably knew that already.
Leigh, a senior middle blocker, led Buffalo in points scored, kills, blocks and hitting percentage in a 3–1 Buffalo win over Youngstown State; and then led Buffalo in kills, points scored and hitting percentage in a 3–0 sweep of previously undefeated Bucknell. She hit over 0.440 in both matches. Other than that, she didn’t do much.
So far this season, Leigh is hitting 0.390 (fifth in the MAC), leads the team in points scored, hitting percentage, total blocks and is second in aces (and one of only two UB players to have more aces than service errors). Her 17 solo blocks is 16 more (not a typo) than anyone else on the team, and 7 more than any other MAC player. Leigh leads the MAC in total blocks (34) and blocks per set (1.21).
Against Youngstown State, the Bulls came out flat and dropped the first set 25–18, as their serve receive and passing struggled. But after that Buffalo was in control, winning the next three sets 25–18, 25–22 and 25–20. Leigh had 13 kills, as did senior middle blocker Courtney Okwara and junior right side Emma Gielas.
The Bulls picked up 10 aces, 4 from sophomore defensive specialist Julianna Lopez, three from sophomore outside hitter Katrin Trebichavská and three from junior defensive specialist Emilie Davis. Davis, who has not seen a lot of playing action in her career, had just one ace previously in her career. Lopez had two aces all season before running off four aces in a row. Sophomore setter Mandy Leigh had 45 assists. Abby Leigh led the team with 4 blocks. Junior libero Hayley Montoya had 11 digs.
Against undefeated Bucknell, Buffalo fell behind 14–11 in the first set, but then scored seven straight points, served by Lopez who recorded 2 aces in that span. Abby Leigh had 3 kills in that streak. Buffalo would never trail again in that set.
In the second set, Buffalo took a 9–7 lead over the Bison. What happened next was absolutely stunning. A kill from Trebichavská gave Buffalo a 10–7 lead, then Abby Leigh stepped to the service line, and Buffalo ran off 15 straight points. Leigh had two aces, but had plenty of help from her teammates in that stretch.
Buffalo took a 5–0 lead in the third set, giving them 21 consecutive points. The Bulls never trailed in the third set.
Buffalo finishes undefeated in this week’s WNY Invite Tournament, and is now 7–2 for the season.
- Buffalo plays next weekend in a tournament at Florida Gulf Coast University. FGCU advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year.
- The next Buffalo home matches will be on September 30 (6pm) and October 1 (1pm) against Northern Illinois University
- In that 16–0 run in the second set, Abby Leigh came up with the Almost-But-Not-Quite Play of the Match™: middle blockers don’t play back row defense much except in the one rotation where they serve. A Bucknell attack looked like it would land, but Leigh came diving in to keep the ball off the floor, the dig went straight to Okwara, who then set the ball to sophomore outside hitter Maria Futey in the back row and Futey came up with the kill. Having Futey (and occasionally others) attack out of the back row is something new in the Bulls offense, and adds just a little more diversity to the UB attack.
- Play of the Match™: Buffalo leads 8–5 in the third set. A Bucknell attack was blocked by Mandy Leigh. The ball then ricocheted off her head to Abby Leigh, whose attempted dig went into the net and looked like it would drop to the floor. Futey, who had dived to cover the ball when it hit Mandy Leigh, and was laying on the floor, just managed to pop the ball high in the air and barely over the net. The ensuing Bucknell attack resulted in a solo block by ... can you guess? ... Abby Leigh.
- Okwara missed the first two weeks of the season with an injury. In both matches, she looked sharp and attacked and blocked well. The connection between setter Mandy Leigh and her two middle blockers during these two matches was excellent.
- I don’t think I have ever seen a 16–0 run. I don’t think I have ever seen a UB player pick up four consecutive aces (I have seen more, but not from UB).
- Bulls in the Pros: Former UB Volleyball Player Andrea Mitrovic has signed a professional contract with Karayolları Spor Kulübü based in Ankara, Turkey. Previously she had played in Greece and Romania. Karayolları is in the second league of the Turkish professional leagues, having been relegated down after a poor season in the top Turkish league. I’m sure Karayolları wants to move back up, and so hiring Mitrovic seems like they are placing a lot of confidence in her to help achieve this move. Also, the Turkish leagues are generally considered a higher quality league than those in Greece or Romania. Mitrovic also plays for Team Canada. Another former UB volleyball player, Polina Prokudina, does not appear to be on any professional team in 2022-23. Last season she played in Greece (but on a different team than Mitrovic)