BUFFALO, NY - The University at Buffalo volleyball team begins year number four of the Todd Kress Era and for the Bulls they believe this is the time to starting making their move towards a Mid-American Conference Championships. The Bulls return nine players from a year ago, adding six newcomers to the mix. For the first time since Kress has been coach, the Bulls are without a senior on this years team.
Highlighting the roster for the Bulls is six juniors, including five who were in Kress’ inaugural recruiting class back in 2010. Kelly Svoboda has locked down the libero position for most of the last two seasons, leading the Bulls with 473 digs in 2011. Through two years, Svoboda has 941 digs, just 120 away from the top 10 in school history.
Junior Dani Reinert begins her second year as the team’s primary setter following a year where she finished with 1,177 assists, the fifth most in a single season in school history. Through two seasons, Reinert’s assist total are eighth all-time.
The junior class continues with a pair of outside hitters in Dana Musil and Christine Fritsche. Musil led the Bulls in kills last season with 324 as she took the most swings of anybody on the team. She already has 619 kills in her career as well as 542 digs and has been a mainstay in the UB lineup since her freshman season. Musil is also one of the team’s top servers as she has recorded 60 aces through two years.
Fritsche is looking to have a break out season in 2012 working to improve on her numbers from a year ago. The Parma, OH native finished with 120 kills last year as she saw action in 93 sets. She added 139 digs, 13 aces and 15 total blocks. Fritsche had 166 kills in her first year with the Bulls.
Also beginning her third year in the Blue and White is UB’s lone returning middle blocker Carissa McKenna. The West Bloomfield, MI native played in 87 sets last year recording 127 kills and a team-high 91 blocks, including 23 solo blocks. McKenna is one of a number of options looking to replace UB’s lone senior from a year ago, Abby Niekamp.
Rounding out the junior class is Kaja Schirmer, who transferred to Buffalo from New Hampshire prior to last season. Schirmer was an outside hitter for the Bulls in 2011, but is in the process of converting to the middle. Schirmer saw action in 39 sets last season, finishing with six kills.
Returning for their second season with the Bulls is a trio of sophomores, including two outside hitters. Headlining the class is Liz Scott, who was named to the All-MAC Freshman team last season. Scott led the team with a .252 hitting percentage and finished second on the team with 280 kills. She also added 23 aces and 61 blocks. All of this despite missing three matches in September with a concussion. Scott notched 20 kills in just her second collegiate match against Colgate in 2011.
Toledo, OH native Kayla Nagle begins her second season as UB’s backup setter. Seeing action in 30 sets, Nagle provided depth both running the offense and as a server. In a match against Kent State in early October, Nagle finished with five aces, nearly half of her season total.
Rounding out the sophomore class is Sable Staller, who after a solid freshman season, will miss 2012 due to a knee injury suffered over the summer. Staller had 73 kills as a freshman, as well as 13 total blocks.
Again, Buffalo will rely very heavily on its freshman class, which includes six players from five different states and Canada.
Megan Lipski, an outside hitter from Louisville, KY, was the first player to sign with the Bulls back in November. Lipski was a Gatorade National Player of the Year nominee and led her high school to a 30-10 record this past season, finishing with 347 kills, 35 aces, 25 blocks and 138 digs.
Joining Lipski on the outside is Tahleia Bishop, who hails from Whitby, Ontario, near Toronto. Bishop is 6-1 and played her club volleyball for the Toronto Diamonds. Her club team has won three gold medals this past season and a bronze medal at the Buffalo Can-Am Tournament.
The Bulls have also added a pair of middle blockers in Amber Hatchett and Akeila Lain. Hatchett hails from Chicago, IL where she attended Frederick W von Steuben Metropolitan Science High School. She is extremely athletic as she touches 10-2 on her approach.
Lain, who is UB’s first player from Georgia, won the Class AAA State Title for Sandy Creek High School with a 44-7 record. She holds county records for blocks in both a single match and for an entire season.
Rounding out the freshmen class is two players, who will both add defensively to the team. Kasey Hollstegge was a three-year varsity player at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati. She was named Honorable Mention Greater Girls Cincinnati her junior and senior years. Hollstegge played her club volleyball for Sport Express Elevation and was named one of the “Best Athletes in AAU” in 2011. During her senior year, she finished with 428 digs and 1,344 assists.
Also joining the Bulls in 2012 is Kayla Yingling, a defensive specialist from Spring Grove, PA. Standing at just under five feet, Yingling is an energetic player, who can dig out any ball defensively. She was named Class AAA All-State in Pennsylvania her junior and senior seasons. During her senior year at Spring Grove, Yingling had 676 digs and 57 service aces.
Kress returns both of his assistant coaches from last season in Jenni Horvath and Andreza Santos. Both Horvath and Santos have been with Kress since he accepted the job at Buffalo.
As in previous years, UB has set up a strong schedule to prepare them for the rigors of Mid-American Conference play. The Bulls begin the season at home as they host the UB Invitational on August 24-25. UB begins the season against Canisius on the 24th followed by an evening match against San Jose St. It wraps up the tournament on Saturday against Oral Roberts.
The following weekend Buffalo heads to South Bend, IN for the Notre Dame Invite where it will face Eastern Kentucky, Notre Dame and UAB. The Bulls remain on the road the following weekend at the Cleveland State Invite, where it faces the host Vikings, Oakland and Eastern Kentucky again. UB concludes non-conference play at home on September 14-15 when it hosts the Blue and White Classic. The Bulls will play Dartmouth on Sep. 14 and then will face Hartford and Syracuse on Sep. 15.
Buffalo’s Mid-American Conference schedule will begin on Thursday, September 20 when they travel to Akron and Toledo in the opening weekend. UB will open home conference play on Friday, Sep. 28 against Miami (OH). The 16-match conference slate will see the Bulls play each member of the East Division (Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State, Miami and Ohio) twice, both home and away, and each member of the West Division once (home against Ball State, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan and on the road against Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan). The Bulls end the regular season home against Kent State on Sat., Nov. 10.
For the second straight year, only the top eight teams in the conference will make the MAC Tournament, which is located at the SPIRE Sports Complex in Geneva, OH. The tournament will take place from November 15-17.
The Bulls hope their mix of veterans and youth make them one of those teams that make a run in Geneva.