Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — Niagara University’s volleyball team is ranked seventh in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference heading into their season opening games this weekend.
After winning three consecutive MAAC Tournaments from 2009-2011 and losing the 2012 semifinal to eventual champion Fairfield, the seventh-place ranking by their peers is a recognition that the team is rebuilding, with no seniors. Its most experienced members are juniors, and there are only three of them on a roster of ten.
The new head coach, however, will suggest that not having seniors does not mean lacking experience.
“I feel like we got really, really strong incoming kids,” said first-year head coach Vilis Ozols, who came to Niagara in February after steering the University of Wyoming’s women’s volleyball squad to a 42-22 record in two years. “It’s not like settling for the best. It’s picking the best in the region knowing they’re going to contribute to the program.”
The Purple Eagles open their Fall 2013 season on Friday at the University at Buffalo Invitational, where they’ll face the host Bulls twice with a match against Temple University in between.
This year’s squad will be led by junior Allison Reis, who is best known as a defensive specialist, or libero. Earlier this week, she was named a member of the 2013 Preseason All-MAAC Team.
Among the other three juniors who represent the team’s elder stateswomen is Amherst resident Tara Topolski.
“Definitely, I learned from the seniors from last year who graduated,” said Topolski about what she learned from her now former elder teammates. “They taught us a lot about leadership and working as a team. I think I learned a lot from them.”
Fellow junior Amanda Sedore was a starter in her first two years. Her coach contends that just because they lack seniors does not mean they lack experience. His newest players will also have the opportunity to gain their own experience in very short time.