Hard work equals success: Lenika Vazquez fills role as head volleyball coach

By Adam Duke

Sports Reporter

After the departure of Cathy Hummel as head coach of the Canisius volleyball program this past November, the Griffs began the search for a replacement.

On January 14, Lenika Vazquez, former assistant coach at Butler, was named head coach. “She’s going to bring energy and excitement to the program,” said athletic director Bill Maher, “My hope is that she’ll have the girls playing with a freedom and aggressiveness that will allow us to capitalize on what I think is a pretty talented group and to challenge what are historically some of the top teams in the conference.”

Vazquez, a Buffalo native, is eager to lead the program. “I like to connect with my players in order to help them reach their full potential,” she said. Vazquez also remarked that she has a high expectation for effort and that her goal is to help her players be the best that they can be. She stated, “It’s not always about the perfect play, but it’s about the perfect effort.”

Vazquez graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2001, where she played as a defensive specialist under Coach Sonya Locke. She was hired in 2002 by SIU as an assistant, where she officially began her career coaching volleyball. Over the past four seasons, Vazquez assisted in leading Butler University to 73 wins, including two 20-win seasons. She was once the head coach at South Suburban College and Chicago State University in Illinois while also helping to found the Illiana Explosive Volleyball Camp. At Chicago State University, three of her players broke school records in several categories. In addition, Vazquez also coached high school volleyball for two years.

After a country-wide search process and speaking with several coaches and administrators, Maher and the athletic department received approximately 70 applications for the job. They then narrowed this down to three finalists and ultimately hired Vazquez in mid-January. Vazquez mentioned that she had a great conversation on her phone interview and upon arriving at the college for her follow-up interview, felt very welcomed by the community feel. “I couldn’t compare it to anything.  It was just- I felt like it was where I needed to be,” Vazquez recalled.

Vazquez’s division I experience, her experience as a head coach, and the fact that she is from the area are three factors that made her a strong candidate. “Meeting with her, everybody on the campus was universally impressed with her. Her excitement about wanting to be the next head coach at Canisius and our feeling that she’s prepared and ready to be a successful coach in our conference is why we felt she was the best candidate for us,” said Maher. Both her coaching ties to the Northeast and Midwest and her knowledge of the Buffalo area will help sell Canisius to prospective recruits, as the athletic department hopes for her to be aggressive on the court as well as in recruiting. “Our hardest working coaches are our most successful coaches,” concluded Maher.

Katlyn Tyler, the team’s leader in kills in 2015, anticipates that Coach Vazquez will instill both a positive attitude and a competitive atmosphere in the team, stating that she believes Vazquez will push them to their full potential in not only games, but in practice and off the court as well. “She comes from a much bigger conference than ours,” Tyler said. She continued, “I think that her having that experience will really help me and my teammates, teach us more about the game than what we already know, and teach us how to be more competitive.”

Vazquez looks forward to coaching the Griffs, explaining that, “I just know that I am coming into a situation where these young women are eager and very hungry to learn. Every word that I’ve said, they’ve soaked it in and they have been extremely positive, and I’m very thankful for that.”

As far as how the team will help Vazquez become acquainted with the program, Tyler stated that the players are always there to help, but is confident that Vazquez won’t need any.
The Griffs, a team that missed the MAAC tournament via tiebreaker to Niagara in 2015, look to improve from their records of 11-19 and 9-9 in the MAAC under Vazquez next season.

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