Lopez Acosta warms up to Buffalo

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Junior libero transfer Sofia Lopez Acosta has fit in really well for Canisius. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

By Adam Duke

Assistant Sports Editor

Of the 13 players on the Canisius volleyball team, six are from New York State, five are from other states across the U.S., one is from a U.S. territory, but only one resides in another country.

Sofia Lopez Acosta, a junior libero hailing from Mexicali, Mexico, transferred from Arizona Western College this offseason to play for the Griffs. She is the team’s digs leader, notching 275 to this point in the season. She is also one of four Griffs to have played in all 67 sets this season.

“She runs the court very well,” said Griffs’ head coach Lenika Vazquez. “She communicates. She’s direct but fair with her teammates, and I think that we needed that on the team, that assertiveness to get things done and hold people accountable as far as their execution.”

Lopez Acosta said that aside from receiving a scholarship, she came to Canisius so that she could try something that was different from home. She wanted to come far for school, leaving both her home of Mexicali, on the California-Mexico border, and her former school in Arizona. She is also excited for the weather.

“It’s getting really cold and I haven’t bought warm clothes, but I know I’m going to,” said Lopez Acosta. “Sometime, I’m going to get used to it. I’m already struggling.”

She is most excited for the snow, which she knows will be fun, even if it is a struggle for her.

She discussed the only occasion in which she witnessed snow, saying, “I have [seen it] once, but it was maybe like, five centimeters — maybe — so it’s not a lot.” Despite this, Lopez Acosta has yet to experience the perfect wonder that is Buffalo snow, but will encounter it soon enough.

Lopez Acosta came to Canisius in the first place after being recruited by Vazquez after the coach’s efforts in finding a libero defensive specialist in Puerto Rico didn’t pan out.

“I was looking for a libero DS in Puerto Rico,” said Vazquez. “My contact there knew that she was still available so they just told me, ‘You know, there’s this libero DS at Arizona Western that’s still available.’ And I contacted her coach and she had good grades, was a good person, so I was like, ‘Do you want to be a Griff?’  No brainer.”

Vazquez praised Lopez Acosta’s efforts on the court, saying that she digs close to 20 balls a match and that her numbers speak for themselves. She added that Lopez Acosta sees the court well and that she has a very high volleyball IQ, which helps the rest of the team. Vazquez also discussed how Lopez Acosta shows grit through her tenacity, is very competitive, and hates to lose, but still remains positive when faced with adversity.

Lopez Acosta said that the Griffs have been more stable as a unit than her team at Arizona Western.

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Sofia Lopez Acosta (No. 2) enjoys playing with her new teammates at Canisius. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

“The girls have a thicker skin when we talk on the court,” she said. “They don’t get mad about anything; they’re really positive about feedback and just [have] a really good energy.”

To help the team stay positive, Lopez Acosta tries to stay motivated, rebound from her mistakes, and encourage others. She said that Vazquez helps her to do this, building the team around staying positive. Halfway through Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play, she believes the team will play even better the second time playing their conference opponents and is feeling comfortable and ready to play them all again.

Vazquez is also ready for the second round of MAAC play. With nine matches left over the course of the next four weeks, she is pushing the team in practice to “just go.”

“[I want] them to put their foot on the gas and forget that there’s a brake,” she said. “I really just want them to go like there’s nothing in front of us, nothing that could stop us, we’re just going to go full force ahead.”

The Griffs sit at seventh place in the MAAC, one spot out of playoff contention, with a record of 4-5. In the first half of the season, they swept Saint Peter’s, Siena, and Iona, and defeated Manhattan by a score of 3-1. Their closest loss came against Quinnipiac on Oct. 1, losing 3-2 in a match in which the Griffs tallied 15.5 blocks, the most they have had in a match since 2013.

Over the next two weeks, the Griffs will play their final two weekend homestands, with a matchup against Niagara in between, on Oct. 26. They will then hit the road for the final four games of the season, traveling downstate to take on Marist and Siena and then to Connecticut for their rematches against Quinnipiac and Fairfield.

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