Rookies of the year: the top 10 UB Bulls freshmen of 2014-15
The 2014-15 sports year for UB Athletics was, for the most part, a year of success. And freshmen played a part in it.
The Bulls saw freshmen come from all parts of the country, landing in Buffalo and giving their respective teams a boost. In some cases, some teams don’t win without their freshmen production, while other teams used their incoming freshmen as a final piece to a great year and expect them to jump into larger roles for the 2015-16 seasons.
Both the wrestling and baseball teams were represented heavily by freshmen this past season. While the baseball team had two productive freshman players, the wrestling team relied heavily on freshman talent this past year and, as a result, had numerous players in consideration for this list.
Sophomore goalkeeper Laura Dougall was instrumental in the women's soccer team's 1-0 shut out of Kent State on Sunday.
These players’ teams will ask them to take on larger roles as sophomores this season and they will be even more critical in determining the success of their respective teams and UB Athletics.
Here are your honorable mentions – players that just miss the cut.
Leandra Jew, outfielder/second baseman, softball – Jew finished with an All-MAC freshman spot and was one of four position players to play in all 50 games last season. At the plate, Jew finished with a triple slash of .260/.297/.281. She led the team in stolen bases with five and led all freshmen on the team with 25 hits. Defensively, Jew had a .916 defensive percentage in 83 total chances.
Jake Gunning, wrestling – As a member of the 285-pound weight class, Gunning led the team in wins with a 28-8 record. Gunning was one of the three freshmen this past season with 20 wins. Although he didn’t compete in a single dual meet, with 28 wins in tournaments, Gunning figures to have a spot on the Bulls main roster next season.
Stephanie Reid, guard, women’s basketball – A midseason import from Australia, Reid joined the Bulls and instantly took over the starting point guard position. In 19 games (17 starts), Reid lead the team in assists with 3.4 per game and first in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.2.
Noah Hajdu-Andersson, men’s tennis – On a team full of underclassmen, Andersson was allowed to learn and grow as he figured out college tennis. In his first season as a Bull, the Norway native finished with a record of 12-4 this past season and is one of the players taking a step forward in the 2015-16 season.
10. Jacob Martinez, wide receiver, football – Martinez gave the Bulls a bit of everything. As a slot receiver, Martinez finished with 28 catches for 280 yards and three touchdowns. He also had six kick returns and seven punt returns. In total, Martinez finished fifth on the roster in all-purpose yards with 406 and looks to be the No. 2 receiver for the Bulls in 2015.
9. Ben Haefner, infielder, baseball – Haefner would’ve ranked higher if he didn’t get injured. Hefner finished with the second highest batting average (.302) and on-base percentage (.454) on the team and ended his first season tied for third on the team with six doubles. Haefner’s success on the offensive end was only topped by his defensive work, as he finished with a fielding percentage of .940 in 150 total chances.
8. Cassie Shado, middle blocker, volleyball – The departure of several seniors on last year’s team allowed the Bulls to have three notable freshman players succeed in 2014. Shado was one of the best of the bunch, racking up with 137 kills on the season – good for sixth on the team.
7. Niki Bozinoski, libero, volleyball – The key to volleyball is keeping the ball from hitting the ground on your side of the net. Bozinoski was vital in keeping the ball in play for the Bulls, finishing with a team high 427 digs last season – over 100 more than the next player on the team.
6. Colt Cotton, wrestling – After transferring from head coach John Stutzman’s former team Bloomsburg, Cotton’s Buffalo career got off to a rough start as he missed the first half of the season with a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury. But after rejoining the lineup, Cotton finished with a 4-3 record including 3-2 MAC record – the only Bull besides now-graduated standout Max Soria to have a winning conference record.
5. Charlie Sobieraski, infielder, baseball – As a freshman, Sobieraski did a bit of everything on the diamond. He led the Bulls in home runs with four, was second on the team in RBIs with 20 and fourth in batting average with a .265 mark. Playing everywhere in the infield, Sobieraski didn’t have as many defensive chances as everyone else, but he finished with a fielding percentage of .900 in 80 total chances.
4. Tanja Stojanovska, women’s tennis – The Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year and first team All-MAC representative, Stojanovska completed her freshman season with a 20-9 overall record in singles play and 6-1 record in MAC play and will enter next season as the leader of a team of sophomores and juniors.
3. Sean Peacock, wrestling – For a freshman on a team with a winless conference record, Peacock did pretty well for himself. He had an almost 20-win season (19), including a 12-7 dual meet record and 4-4 conference record – good for second on the team. Peacock will be an instrumental piece to the team next season as the Bulls attempt to finally break through in Year Three under Stutzman.
2. Lamonte Bearden, guard, men’s basketball – A prized recruit for former Bulls head coach Bobby Hurley, Bearden entered the season as the starting shooting guard and gave the Bulls another scorer and dependable passer in the starting lineup. As a freshman, Bearden averaged 8.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. With the departure of Shannon Evans, Bearden looks like the most likely candidate to replace him as the No. 1 point guard.
1. Laura Dougall, goalkeeper, women’s soccer – The best freshman from this past season was without question Laura Dougall. Dougall’s play in goal was instrumental in the Bulls’ turnaround and first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. She finished with a record of 16-2-3 with 13 shutouts – breaking the program record for shutouts in a season. In 21 games, Dougall had 84 saves and allowed only 12 goals on the year.
Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org