The best of the UB Bulls

The Spectrum hands out midseason awards

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With most of Buffalo’s Division-I sports in the thick of Mid-American Conference play, each team is still in contention for their respective conference titles.

Of course, it’s a whole team effort, including the coaching staff, to get a team in position to compete for a championship. But each squad has standout performers that have helped take it to the next level.

The Spectrum named the best newcomer, most improved and the most valuable player of the Bulls’ Division-I fall sports team so far.

Football (2-3, 0-1 MAC)

Newcomer: Collin Lisa, sophomore wide receiver

The speedy transfer from UAB has quickly turned into one of senior quarterback Joe Licata’s favorite targets on the team. He ranks third with 188 receiving yards and a touchdown this season, while giving Licata a legitimate third-down slot option.

Most improved: Nick Gilbo, senior linebacker

Glibo was limited to a backup role and special teams last season, but he now has the responsibility of a ‘Mike’ linebacker and one of the best defensive players on the team. Gilbo is ranked first in many defensive categories, including tackles (44), tackles for losses (6.5) and sacks (2.5).

MVP: Anthone Taylor, senior running back

He has been the most consistent player on the Bulls all season and contributes to the team much more than rushing.

Taylor’s 474 yards (94.8/game) through five games leads the team by more than 175 yards. But his value is his awareness. He’s one of the best blockers on the team and has awareness of the full field. He’s excellent at picking up the blitz and has kept Buffalo in many games this season.

A strong case also could have been made for junior cornerback Boise Ross, but ultimately, Taylor contributed too much to pass up.

Men’s soccer (5-4-3)

Newcomer: Scott Doney, sophomore forward

A transfer from Marshall and native of New Zealand, Doney has made himself a home in Buffalo.

This season, Doney is second on the team in points (13), shots (20) and goals (4)while playing in all 12 games thus far. Expect more of Doney in the second half of the season.

Most improved: Braden Scales, junior defenseman/midfielder

Last season, Scales held nothing more than a fill-in role for the Bulls, but this year, he’s one of the most important pieces to a potential conference-winning team.

He’s stepped into a starting role, playing in all games and starting nine of them, and shined as well. He ranks second on the team in points (10) and his .650 shots on goal percentage is first on the team for players with more than one attempt.

MVP: Russell Cicerone, junior midfielder/forward

There was absolutely no question about who the leader of this team is.

Cicerone has been the best player on the team the previous two seasons, but his level of play has increased this season as well. He has become the foundation of this team behind his team-leading 22 points, eight goals, six assists and 38 shots on goal. The reigning MAC Co-Player Of The Week may have more of those awards in store this season with his level of play.

Women’s soccer (6-5-1, 2-2 MAC)

Newcomer: Carissima Cutrona, freshman forward

One of the best players on this year’s soccer team grew up 15 minutes away from UB Stadium.

Cutrona, a redshirt freshman and native of Williamsville, has been a welcoming surprise for this squad, tallying two goals, three assists and seven points, which all rank second on the team. Her 35 shots rank first on the team as well.

Most improved: Julia Benati, sophomore midfielder

Benati impressed many during her MAC All-Freshman team nod last year, but she has gradually evolved into one of the best players on the Bulls. She leads the team in goals (4) and points (9) and is tied with Cutrona with 13 shots on goal.

MVP: Laura Dougall, sophomore goalkeeper

Last year’s freshman phenom has quickly rose to the best player on this year’s team at the age of 19.

Buffalo may all ready have more losses this season than all of last year, but it hasn’t been because of Dougall. She allows less than a goal per game (0.80) and has made 61 saves this season. On many occasions, Dougall’s defensive prowess helped keep Buffalo in the game and is a key reason why the Bulls still have a winning record.

Volleyball (3-13, 2-2 MAC)

Newcomer: Valisha Watkins, freshman outside hitter

The freshman has helped Buffalo forget the departure of Tahleia Bishop.

Watkins inherited Bishop’s position this year after she left the team after last season due to undisclosed reasons. But Watkins has stepped in the role with gusto.

The freshman is second on the team in kills (127) and averages 2.5 points per set.

Most improved: Niki Bozinoski, sophomore libero

It’s hard for a player that played 116 sets as a freshman last year to improve, but her defensive skills are as polished as ever.

Bozinoski has 116 digs and leads the team with 10 service aces so far this season. The numbers may not jump out, but she refined her defensive game this season and has become a crucial member of this growing team.

MVP: Megan Lipski, senior outside hitter

It’s arguable Lipski was the best player on the team last year. There’s no question about it this season.

Lipski is encapsulates what a senior leader is supposed to be. Head coach Blair Brown Lipsitz frequently praises her for her efforts.

This season, she has a team-high 178 kills and 572 total attempts. Her most impressive performance to date was in a 3-1 victory over Bowling Green last Saturday where she accumulated 17 kills, 47 total attempts and 18 digs. Despite a slow start, Lipski and the team are now right in the hunt for a MAC title.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on twitter at @jordanmgrossman