Kristin Bignell enjoying great success with University at Buffalo

Kristin Bignell had an historic season with the University at Buffalo women’s Division I volleyball team.

The 19-year-old Drayton native finished the 2008 season with a hitting percentage of .307, becoming the first Bulls player to hit over .300 since the team entered the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in 1998.

Bignell said that achievement is particularly rewarding because it represents consistency. She added that “making school history” was the highlight of her personal season, though she had no idea she was on pace for a record-setting year until late in the season.

“It wasn’t my goal to make all-tournament teams or anything, it was just a result of playing hard, I guess,” she said.

Primarily a middle blocker, Bignell had 252 kills on 579 attempts, with just 74 errors, and averaged 2.33 kills per set.

She enjoyed a season-high hitting percentage of .882 during a game versus Butler and throughout the season she ranked as high as 17th in the  U.S. for hitting percentage.

Other honours during the season included being named to the all-star team at four tournaments and named the MAC East Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks in September.

And just this week, Bignell was one of 24 student athletes named to the 2008 Volleyball Academic All-MAC Team, which recognizes those who have at least a 3.2 cumulative grade point average and have participated in at least 50 percent of contests.

Previous Bulls coach Jim Lodes has called Bignell “a dominant middle blocker,” praising her for becoming “a student of her position” and for being “able to take control of matches at the net.”

But Bignell’s team-leading 12 kills in a first round MAC Tournament game in November were not enough to extend the team’s season, as the Bulls fell to Bowling Green, three sets to one. The team finished with a 6-25 record.

While she expressed disappointment with the team’s losing season, Bignell is not second guessing her decision to attend Buffalo over a number of other American schools, including Cornell and Kent State, as well as numerous Canadian universities.

“I still have a really great time there,” she said of New York’s state university. “Other than the losing, it was what I expected … and it was good to have those personal victories. It was nice the way it turned out.”

In addition to its combination of academics, athletics, and atmosphere – which Bignell said is what first attracted her to Buffalo – the university is also close to the  Canada-U.S. border.

That has meant her parents, Bob and Sheila, were able to attend every home game this past season and Bob even attended all the road games as well.

Bignell said she appreciates the support from her family, with whom she was able to spend some time over the holidays in Drayton. She will return to school on Jan. 11, where things will remain fairly quiet until February or March, when the volleyball team will resume its 20-hours-per-week practice schedule.

She admitted there will be some uncertainty when she returns, as the team will be getting a new coach, but Bignell is looking forward to an exciting season in 2009.

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Before heading to the University at Buffalo to play volleyball and study exercise physiology on a full scholarship, Bignell led the Norwell Redmen to a 30-0 record and the second of two consecutive titles at the Central Western Ontario Secondary School Association Championships.

Bignell, who also played on the Norwell basketball team, describes herself in her Buffalo player profile as “competitive, determined, and quiet.”

Her professional goal is to become a physical therapist.

In 2007 Bignell was named Buffalo’s most improved player, finishing fifth on the team with 171 kills and first on the team with 89 block assists.