It wasn’t a matter of talent or skill. It was a matter of team chemistry.
That’s what the University at Buffalo volleyball team was lacking – that intangible athletic quality of cohesion that makes the team greater than the sum of its parts.
So, the Bulls took it upon themselves to work on that in the offseason. They spent as much time together as they could. They built bonds. They developed chemistry.
And the results have shown on the court. The Bulls are off to a 10-0 start, their best since 1989. In 10 wins they have only dropped two sets while taking titles at the Cornell and Georgia State tournaments.
“You know, 10-0 is great and we’re pleased to have this start but we also know we have lots and lots of work ahead of us and miles to go,” coach Todd Kress said.
And the miles go through Alumni Arena this weekend with three huge matches as the Bulls host the Blue and White Classic. Friday at 7 p.m., they host one of the hottest teams in college volleyball, Valparaiso (10-1). Saturday at 1:30 they play Maryland-Eastern Shore, an NCAA tournament team last year, before the highlight of the slate, a 7 p.m. match with No. 13 Ohio State.
“It’s such a big opportunity for us. It’s going to be a big weekend for us,” senior defensive specialist Kelly Svoboda said. “As a team, we just have to go in and take advantage of the opportunities that have been given to us and use this weekend to make us better.”
Statistically, defense has been a key to Buffalo’s success. The Bulls have the lowest opponent’s hitting percentage in the country and rank third in blocks. Svoboda, who was the Mid-American East Defensive Player of the Week, ranks sixth nationally in digs (5.69 per set).
But ask Svododa, one of six seniors on the roster and members of Kress’ first recruiting class, and she’ll point to team chemistry as the reason behind Buffalo’s success.
“What’s been going well so far this year is that we’ve been playing as a team,” Svoboda said. “It all comes down to that pretty much. We’ve always had players. We’ve had the talent level. It’s that this year we’re playing as a team.
“It’s been something that we’ve constantly been working on. The big thing in volleyball is chemistry. You have to build that chemistry and with the chemistry comes the confidence level.”
That’s something that Kress has seen come together with his team this year, allowing different people to contribute on different nights.
“We’ve gotten contributions from everyone,” Kress said. “We’re not a team that has a go-to player that we can hang our hat on her coattails and say we’re going to go win a championship with her. It has to be everybody operating on all cylinders to help us be great. ... We have to understand who we are. We’re a great team when we fight together and play in unison.”
Kosior inks pro deal
Former Daemen women’s basketball player Monica Kosior signed a contract to play with C.S. Universitatea Cluj Napoca, which competes in Romania’s Liga Nationala.
She is the second Daemen player to play professionally as East Aurora native Sarah Soroka played one season in Portugal after graduating in 2011.
Kosior transferred to Daemen from Canisius and played three years for the Wildcats. Her junior season, she averaged 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds as the Wildcats went 23-8 and made an NAIA national tournament apperanace.
Last year she led the team in points (13.8), rebounds (8.6) and blocks (2.9) as Daemen went 26-7 and won the USCAA title.
Softball Fall Classic
The highlight of the fall ball season takes place this weekend at the Northtown Center Fields in Amherst as Canisius hosts the annual Nan Harvey Softball Fall Classic. It is the 25th year of the tournament that involves the Big 4. Canisius coach Mike Rappl renamed the event after Nan Harvey a few years ago in memory of the University at Buffalo coach, administrator and softball official.
The two-day tournament kicks off at 11:30 a.m. with Buffalo playing Niagara and Canisius playing St. Bonaventure. At 2 p.m., Niagara plays Bona while Buffalo plays Canisius.
On Sunday games begin at 11:30 a.m. (Canisius vs. Niagara, Buffalo vs. Bona) with the consolation and championship games at 2 p.m.
For the second year, there will also be a junior college division featuring Erie Community College, Mercyhurst Northeast, Durham College and Monroe Community College. Games are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Defense key for UB
As the national stats came out this week for women’s soccer, the University at Buffalo ranks in the top 25 in three defensive categories.
The Bulls came in at 18th in save percentage (.893), 20th in goals-against average (0.45) and 22nd in shutout percentage (.667).
Credit the defense to the core unit of Courtney Gross, Kristin Markiewicz, Natalie Jurisevic and Sophie Therien and starting goalkeeper Ainsley Wheldon.
Wheldon earned her second Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Week honor. She has 19 career shutouts, just two shy of the school record.
The Bulls are 3-2-2 overall after dropping a 2-1 decision to Niagara on Wednesday. They held opponents scoreless for 449 minutes with four straight shutouts, the third longest streak in school history.