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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Volleyball coach Scott Smith’s insight on success

Smith became the fourth coach in program history to win 60 career games earlier this season

<p>Women's volleyball head coach Scott Smith leads his team's huddle. | Paul Hokanson, UB Athletics.</p>

Women's volleyball head coach Scott Smith leads his team's huddle. | Paul Hokanson, UB Athletics.

UB women’s volleyball head coach Scott Smith is always focused on the next goal.

“Sixty [career wins] is nice, but I’m still looking for a 20-win season, so that’s going to be nicer,” Smith said last month, when The Spectrum asked him about becoming the fourth coach to reach 60 wins in program history. 

Smith got his wish. 

On Saturday, UB hit the 20-win mark against Northern Illinois (8-17, 6-7 MAC). That victory pushed UB past last year’s total of 19 and marked the program’s most victories since 1995, when the team won 22. 

Smith’s career record now sits at 69-71 after coming into the season at 49-66. With five games remaining in the regular season, he’s four wins away from tying Todd Kress (73-81) for third all-time in UB history. 

In high school in Virginia, Smith was a district champion wrestler who couldn’t play volleyball because his school didn’t have a men’s team. Smith remained committed to the sport, managing the school’s girls’ team for three years and playing Junior Olympic volleyball. In college at Appalachian State, Smith was a student assistant for the volleyball team as well as the club volleyball captain and president for four years.

Smith started as a UB assistant coach in 2015 and has been at the helm since April of 2019. The team has improved each season, with win totals of 13, 4 (during COVID-19), 13, 19, and now 20.

This season, the Bulls currently sit at 20-5 (10-3 MAC), good for third place in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) behind Western Michigan (23-2, 13-0 MAC) and Ball State (14-10, 11-2 MAC).

Smith attributed this year’s historic success to his team’s ability “to mix up our lineup, get some people some breaks, [come] into the game a little more mentally fresh.” He specifically highlighted graduate transfer Maurine Calande and freshman Manoela Forlin, who have been able to fit into lineups, showcasing their size and ball control. 

UB’s depth “really reduced the errors and kept the positivity on the court,” he said. The team has 453 hitting errors and 114 receiving errors currently, an improvement over last year’s 638 and 139.

“We have a lot of defensive specialists, and they all bring something different to the court,” Smith said. 

Junior starting libero and captain Maria Futey has 367 digs, and senior defensive specialist Julianna Lopez has 156 digs.

Leadership is also a huge part of the UB’s success, Smith said. With nine seniors, these Bulls are not afraid to step up and speak their minds.

Smith credited his team’s three captains, juniors Mandy Leigh and Maria Futey and fifth-year Abby Leigh, because they “lead by example every single day.”

Smith’s philosophy is to worry less about what happened in a specific game, and to focus more on the fundamentals.

“We’re always working on trying to improve our first touch, our serve receive, getting the ball on the net, so we can run our full offense,” Smith said.

He also attributes the program’s success to Danielle Davis, a mental performance specialist who speaks with the team once a week and will talk to players one-on-one if they need extra help. She also works with national No. 15 Arizona State (21-3, 9-3 PAC-12) and Davidson (15-9, 7-7 A10), other teams having impressive years.

Since Smith took over, UB has been able to “build up our base” and make the program “sustainable.”

With five games left before the MAC Tournament begins on Nov. 19, the team looks to continue its record-breaking season.

Michael P. Scotto is a sports editor and can be reached at michael.scotto@ubspectrum.com


MICHAEL P. SCOTTO
michael-scotto.jpg

Michael Scotto is an assistant sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time he's either playing volleyball or catching up on sports. 

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