UB Bulls fall sports preview
Top storylines for the fall sports season
With an eventful spring season for UB Athletics - men's basketball and tennis making the NCAA Tournament, Jonathan Jones winning a national championship in the shot put and Bobby Hurley's departure - it could be easy to forget the fall sports season is almost here.
And there's several intriguing story lines to watch out for as the football, volleyball and men's and women's soccer teams gear up for the 2015 season. The Spectrum has you covered on what to watch out for.
Football: Will Lance Leipold continue success at the Division I level?
Athletic Director Danny White wanted to get a winner to replace Jeff Quinn to run the football team. And so he did.
First-year head coach Lance Leipold holds the record for the best win percentage in college football. In the past six seasons with Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, Leipold accumulated a 109-6 record and five national championships. The first-year coach reached 100 wins faster than any coach in NCAA history.
Leipold, however, is coming to a Division I team that has its fair share of holes consistently throughout most of the lineup. The majority of the starting defense and the offensive line graduated this past year, leaving voids for Leipold and the staff to fill.
Leipold’s winning percentage may be in jeopardy, but his opportunity to shine in Division I isn’t. The D-III coach will look to make his name in the coaching circuits this season as he hopes to bring Buffalo to a level of sustained success.
Women’s soccer: Can team repeat as champions without top players?
The women’s soccer team was the first of three Buffalo teams to win a conference championship and the only team to do so with such dominance.
The unit went 16-3-3 during the 2014-15 season, ending with a MAC championship and a bid to the NCAA Tournament. In their MAC Tournament run, the Bulls allowed just one goal in three games, largely in part to superb defense.
A new season also brings changes to a unit that allowed only 12 goals during the regular season. The Bulls lost three high-profile seniors from last season in Katie Roberts, Sophie Therien and Courtney Mann – all of whom were instrumental in the team’s run.
The team does return sophomore goalie Laura Dougall, who made the All-MAC Freshman team and was one of the best goalkeepers in the country. The Bulls are on top but it will be a long road to stay there.
Volleyball: Will Blair Brown Lipsitz make a smooth transition to coach?
Sunahara left for the head coaching job at West Virginia in March, which ended his one and only season with the Bulls in which they went 17-15 and 6-10 in the Mid-American Conference.
Brown Lipsitz is an intriguing and a typical Danny White-hire. Like almost all of White’s hires, she is a successful former player, but like former men’s basketball head coach Bobby Hurley, she has never been a head coach before. The standout player from Penn State is a four-time national champion and has accumulated two All-American accolades.
The team returns eight total players from last season, but not All-MAC performer Tahleia Bishop, who is no longer on the roster. The future could be bright for the volleyball team but Lipsitz will have to make it so. Sometimes, a winner on the court doesn’t transition to the sidelines and that may be the case for Lipsitz. But if she transitions well, the Bulls have a bright season ahead of them.
Men’s soccer: Will high-profile recruits pan out?
The men’s soccer team hasn’t accumulated a .500 record since the 2011 season, but head coach Stu Riddle and the team hopes internationally-lauded recruits will help change that.
Since the beginning of May, the team secured four high-level recruits for the 2015 season, two of which were individual standouts overseas. Pablo Fernandez-Paniagua Juez of Spain and Nick Forrester of New Zealand were signed on May 5.
Fernandez-Paniagua Juez is the first player from the Real Madrid Academy to don a MAC jersey. Forrester was a member of the U17 New Zealand National Team and comes to Buffalo after one season at Butler University.
The Bulls also have one of the top players and best goal scorers in the MAC in junior midfielder Russell Cicerone. The rapid recruiting and combined with Cicerone and some younger players finally maturing is a promising step for the struggling squad, but success isn’t inevitable. The Bulls have enough talent to compete with the best of the conference but only time will tell if they actually can.
Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org