Maturing Bulls eye conference’s best
Published: Friday, June 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
The women’s volleyball team was the youngest in the country last season. That youth was overly evident throughout the year. While sometimes the Bulls showed flashes of brilliance, the season was marked by a lack of ability to close opponents out and it showed in their record.
Despite their struggles (11-9, 4-12 Mid-American Conference), the Bulls are tremendously talented, and while the team is still young, they are definitely more experienced and excited to take the step toward winning volleyball.
“We had opportunities down the stretch the last couple of weeks to finish some matches and we didn’t,” said head coach Todd Kress. “That was something we need to work on, it’s just that mentality. There are definitely some things there on the technical side but for the most part that is more of a mental aspect, a mind set that when you have the opportunity to finish a match or win a match you just find a way to do whatever is necessary.”
Additionally Kress expounded upon the teams leadership. The Bulls have strong leaders that he says are developing and stepping into the team’s leadership roles. However, Kress also pointed out that his team needs followers.
This off-season the Bulls were significantly healthier than last off-season. Junior libero Kelly Svoboda, who was injured last winter and unable to practice, was able to get involved in more drills and help the team develop their fundamental skills. The continuity that health brings, in addition to the youthful roster, allowed the Bulls to practice with the entire core of the team during the offseason.
“I don’t think there is a winning program that doesn’t have their student-athletes here over the summer,” Kress said. “I think our kids made a statement this year about competing at a higher level next year by the fact that many of them chose to stay.”
After last season’s struggles, that commitment is a good sign for a program that expects to compete every year. The Bulls came into the offseason unhappy with last year’s finish and they were more to the point and business-like this year.
That attitude and work ethic is important on a team that lacks a superstar and needs everyone to produce consistently in order to compete at a high level. In order for the Bulls to get to where they want to be, everyone on the team needs to establish their role among their teammates and produce accordingly.
Additionally, the roster has been filled out nicely this year. With the aging of the current group of players, including junior outside hitter Dana Musil and junior setter Dani Reinert, the Bulls finally have a core group of upper classmen on the roster to lead the younger, inexperienced groups. They have also added six freshmen to the roster who will be able to learn from the baptism by fire that last year’s freshmen endured.
Kress is expecting his team to give this season their all, both on the court and in the classroom. He believes that if his players give max effort throughout the season, they will be successful in the conference and be right there with the top teams.
Despite the step back last year, Kress has seen the program take steps forward in each of his three seasons at Buffalo and believes that one of the steps his program has to take to become stronger is in student attendance.
“We would just love to see the student support,” Kress said. “I know these are kids that make great sacrifices and they love to see the support of their fellow students.”
Overall, if the Bulls can mature and better understand their roles, they will take another step forward in their development and compete with the best teams in the conference.
“I think they understand that it’s time to step up,” Kress said. “It’s time to step up in their role, produce in their role, it’s time to mature and maybe shed some of the things that held us back in the past and make a difference.”