By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The University of Buffalo hired Reed Sunahara on Friday as it’s new women’s volleyball coach.
Sunahara, a former Hilo High School multi-sport standout and two-time UCLA All-American, takes over the NCAA Division I program from Todd Kress, who was dismissed Dec. 3 after his team finished third in the Mid-American Conference East. In five seasons at the Buffalo, N.Y. school, Kress had a 73-81 overall record.
Sunahara is returning to collegiate coaching after resigning as the University of Cincinnati’s women’s head coach in 2012 after 15 highly successful seasons at the helm. He had an overall 308-149 record while at Cincinnati.
“I am excited to get back into the college game and the move to Western New York will allow me to be closer to my family,” Sunahara said.
“I look forward to getting to work right away and work with the student-athletes during the spring season.”
Sunahara spent the past year as an assistant coach on the U.S. women’s national team, which won the Pan American Cup and finished second in the Grand Championships in Tokyo.
During his tenure with the Bearcats, Cincinnati won five conference titles in both Conference USA and the Big East, including winning the 2011 Big East Tournament. Sunahara left Cincinnati as the winningest coach in program history.
“We couldn’t have found a better candidate than Reed for this position,” Buffalo athletic director Danny White said in announcing the hiring. “He has coached some of the very best players in the world and he has also been successful in the college ranks, reaching 20 wins in 11 of his 12 seasons at Cincinnati. We are excited for him to lead our program and achieve our goals of winning championships and providing a tremendous student-athlete experience.”
Sunahara has not only extensive coaching experience at the collegiate level, but he’s also been heavily involved with the USA Volleyball program over the years as well with international federations, like NORCECA.
According to the UB press release, Sunahara served as an assistant coach at Cincinnati from 1997-99. He was the head coach at the University of Toledo in 1995-1996 after being an assistant there from 1993-94.
Prior to Toledo, Sunahara served as assistant men’s coach (1990-93) at perennial power UCLA under Al Scates, one of the all-time winningest volleyball coaches in NCAA history. He also served as the graduate assistant at UCLA in 1987 and 1989. The Bruins captured three national championships during his coaching tenure.
As a player, Sunahara helped lead UCLA to three straight national championships, including two undefeated seasons (29-0 in 1982 and 38-0 in 1984). He led the Bruins with a .399 hitting percentage in 1984 and was considered the nation’s best outside hitter.
When the Bulls open their 2014 season, Sunahara will have one of the conference’s top returning players in All-MAC first-team selection Tahleia Bishop. Bishop is a junior outside hitter. Buffalo lost another talented player to graduation, in senior libero Kelly Svoboda, who was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year for the 2013 season.