Heading into her senior season with the University of Buffalo Bulls volleyball program, libero Kelly Svoboda was ready for a big season. Entering the season with ambitions to set the UB school record for digs, she would manage to make it happen. Although she may not have imagined her efforts would be recognized in Sports Illustrated’s famous Faces in the Crowd segment.
Prior to joining UB, the Cleveland, Ohio native was recruited by the likes of Ohio State, Akron, Cleveland State, Coastal Carolina and Eastern Kentucky. Her greatest accomplishment may have been winning nationals in 2009 with a club team called the Cleveland Volleyball Company 17 Black. Having committed to UB, her efforts would pay remarkable dividends. As a freshman in 2010, she would lead all MAC competitors with 468 digs.
For the week of November 4, 2013, Svoboda was recognized as the MAC Defensive Player of the Week. It would set the tone for a month to remember. Averaging 8.0 digs a set against the Ohio Bobcats, she would also record two service aces and three assists. With a five-set match at Kent State, she would record another 28 digs, putting her at over 500 for the season.
The month of November 2013 would mark the record breaking events in Svoboda’s tenure with the Bulls program. She broke three digging marks with 43. The five-set loss to the Toledo Rockets on November 9 found Svoboda also breaking the Division I single match record.
Of note, her previous best had been a 31 dig effort against Bowling Green on September 29, 2012. That season was defined early on by two lost weeks due to injury. Despite the setback, she would manage to log double digit digs in 18 of the 22 matches she participated in. Her season would end on a good note with a season-high three aces against Kent State on November 10, 2012.
Her epic performance against Toledo also set new Bulls program marks for season and career digs. Those marks now reach totals of 626 and 1,935. With an average of 5.74 digs per strike, Svoboda sits atop as the conference leader. Trailing behind her in second with 5.34 is Corynne Smith of Eastern Michigan.
Despite the loss to Toledo, she would log 25 digs in a 3-2 win against Bowling Green on November 16, the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MAC) champions. Of note, both matches in which she rewrote the Bulls record books both happened on home turf at Buffalo’s Alumni Arena. The Bulls now improve to 16-11 with a 4-10 mark in MAC Conference play. In a city that is known for its fanatical followings in football and hockey, Svoboda has established herself as a sporting legend.