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Griffs In Depth: Volleyball's Sara Wesley back where she belongs


Sara Wesley
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Canisius senior Sara Wesley grew up playing volleyball as a middle hitter. When she arrived at Canisius in the fall of 2015, she began her collegiate career as a Golden Griffin playing outside hitter.
Now in her senior season, Wesley is happy to be back in the middle for the Blue and Gold.
"I just wasn't comfortable playing outside, I couldn't make the adjustment, and because I wasn't tall enough, I felt like I was getting housed," Wesley said. "When coach [Lenika Vazquez] came here the spring of my freshman year, I jumped into some middle hitter blocking drills during work-outs and coach mentioned that I looked more comfortable in the middle. That's when I told her I had been a middle my whole life, and she told me it might be time to move back."
"After seeing her drill with the middles, I realized she just looked more comfortable on the court," Vazquez said. "I talked to her and she told me she was a middle her whole life. She doesn't look like your typical middle hitter, but she is super athletic and she likes the fast ball. We agreed moving her made sense, especially because her athletic ability really helps with our block."
Wesley currently ranks third on the team with her 2.35 kills per set, and her .272 attack percentage is second-best on the team and 10th best in the MAAC. The Exeter, Pa., native is also good for 0.72 blocks per set this season, with her 46 block assists ranking second on the Griffs' roster. As a team, Canisius leads the MAAC in team attack percentage (.231) while ranking fourth in blocks per set with 1.72 per contest.
As one of three seniors on the 2018 volleyball roster, Wesley has been a leading force in the Blue and Gold's recent turnaround that has seen the team rip off wins in seven of its last 10 outings, including a stretch of four-straight wins from Sept. 30 through Oct. 13. As the team prepares to travel to play at long-time rival Niagara on Thursday night, the Griffs are 9-10 overall with a 7-3 mark in MAAC play.
"As a team, we just continue to get better and push ourselves," Wesley said. "Coach Vazquez is pushing us to communicate more, on and off the floor. That has really helped us come together as a group and you can see the results because we are getting consistent effort in practice and then obviously in matches."
Vazquez points to the ability to communicate as a key piece in the team's recent success. The third-year head coach says open communication between teammates and the coaching staff has helped foster a very confident atmosphere around this year's edition of the Griffs.
"There's so much that has gone into getting to this point in the season, it is hard to put into words," Vaquez said. "Our communication is very open and transparent on the floor, in the locker room and in team meetings. Our team is comfortable around each other, and we established that because we felt that was the best way to start to find our flow as a collective group."
The Griffs head north to play Niagara on Thursday after falling to Saint Peter's 3-1 on Sunday, a loss that ended the Blue and Gold's four-match win streak. Vazquez does not want one loss to define the season, and has told her team that.
"I have a lot of respect for the teams in our league, and I give a ton of credit to Saint Peter's. They flat out balled on Sunday, no other way to put it," she said. "I had not looked at the league standings and who is playing who until just the other day. But as I looked at it, I realized we are in a pretty good spot, but we need to keep pushing ourselves to get better. We can't take anything for granted. Obviously, our rivalry with Niagara is well-known, but our next match is not just a rivalry game, it is a chance to show people that we have gotten to this point working together as a team and our recent wins aren't just flukes."
"Coach tells us all the time to stay focused on the next match, to be ready for what is ahead of us," Wesley said. "The Niagara matches are always a dogfight, but coach doesn't want us focusing on just one team, or other teams playing, because we only control what we can do. As a senior, I am excited to go [to Niagara] and we're going in there with confidence knowing we can play with anyone in the league right now."
The Griffs and the Purple Eagles will meet for the 100th time in series history Thursday, with the match set to start at 6 p.m. After going to Niagara, Canisius will open a five-match homestand Saturday, Oct. 20, when the team plays host to Siena.

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