Bengals deliver under DePeters’ lead


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Buffalo State coach Maria DePeters (left) and senior Sam Parente have led the Bengals to their best three-year stretch in program history.

Anthony Reyes, Staff Writer

November 10, 2013, a day that will forever go down in Buffalo State women’s volleyball history, a SUNYAC Championship battle against the New Paltz Hawks.

A tough first set loss, followed by three straight set wins. A matchup that saw 23 ties and 13 lead changes. The Bengals captured their first SUNYAC Championship and their first ever NCAA tournament bid.

The 2013 season was their second season in a row with at least 25 wins. Between 2008 and 2011, a span of four seasons, they totaled just 60 wins. The last two seasons, they have notched 51 wins. What changed? The coach and the culture did.

Maria DePeters joined the team as an assistant head coach in 2009 and was named head coach in 2011. Before her success as a coach, she was just a normal western New York native.

A 2005 graduate of Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore, she was a varsity letter winner from 2002-04. She was first team All-Catholic in 2003 and 2004, second team All-Western New York in 2004, and 2005 Mount St. Mary Academy Athlete of the Year. She is also a recent Hall Of Fame inductee. For DePeters it was Mount St. Mary that made her what she is today.

“Mount St. Mary is a school that really helped change my life,” DePeters said. “It pushed me academically, the coaches at my high school were awesome, and I think without Mount I wouldn’t be where I am today.

“I wouldn’t be as successful a student in college as I was and I don’t think I would have pushed myself as hard on the volleyball court as I did because of the things that the Mount taught me. Mount is very close to my heart, I have about a dozen amazing friends from the Mount, they literally gave me a second family.”

DePeters then went on to college at Baldwin Wallace, a top Division-III school, where she continued to excel in her volleyball career. She currently ranks in the top 10 in the Yellow Jackets’ record books for season kills, season block solos, career kills, career ace leaders and career block solos. She was also named her team’s MVP for the 2005 season.

But she knew she didn’t want to continue playing, she wanted to coach.

“In the middle of my second semester of senior year, I just started to apply for a lot of coaching positions,” DePeters said. “I applied online at the NCAA and then I just sent out a lot of cover letters and resumes to local schools in the Buffalo and Rochester area, and Buffalo State was one of the schools who got back to me.”

She was named assistant coach in 2009 and in 2011 she was named head coach. DePeters feels the two years as an assistant were crucial.

“I really needed that,” DePeters said. “By no means did I ever think that I would be a head coach at 23 years old. That was a lot of responsibility for me at a young age, but I was ready for it because those two years of being an assistant really showed me what being a head coach is all about.

It was nice because I got to know the girls at an assistant coach level. I got to really work with those girls on fundamentals and skills and the girls kind of had an idea what I would be like as a head coach. So, girls that wanted to be involved in the program when I took over, they were there, they were invested.”

Now, just having finished her fourth season as head coach, she has lead the program to its first SUNYAC Championship, its first NCAA tournament bid, she has complied a .650 win percentage, the highest in the program history, and she has accumulated 91 wins, which is most in school history. DePeters feels that her success as a player is one of the reasons she’s such a successful coach.

“I’ve really told my girls what my philosophy of coaching is,” DePeters said. “What my ideas of being a successful program are, and those ideas are competing for a SUNYAC championship every year and being a national-level team. I played at a high Division-III level, so I think I really knew what it takes to get to that level, a national-level program.

“So, when I went out recruiting girls, I went out and knew what I was looking for talent wise and also attitude wise and personality wise of good kids to come into the program.”

DePeters has also brought the philosophy of having a second family, like she did at Mount St. Mary, with her to Buffalo State. That concept of family along with her success as a player were the key reasons she was able to recruit two of her top players, Sam Parente and Hannah Renaldo.

Parente, of East Patchogue, NY, is one of the best volleyball players in school history. She was All-SUNYAC first team from 2012-14, SUNYAC Championship team in 2012 and 2014.

“I’m a very family-oriented person and I think it helps me a lot knowing that I’m going to have another family up in Buffalo,” Parente said. “She (DePeters) was an awesome player in college and she knows what she’s talking about; she has a lot of skill; she’s a really good people person; she’s a good communicator; she’s just there for us both on the court and off. She’s just an awesome person and I’m glad I got to play for her for four years and it was definitely one of the best decisions of my life to go to Buffalo State.”

Renaldo, of North Collins, NY, has also done well in her time here at Buffalo State. In 2012 she was named SUNYAC West Division Rookie of the Year and also All-SUNYAC second team. In 2013 she was named to the All-Tourney team for the Nazareth Tournament. Renaldo had the opportunity to play for DePeters long before she came to Buffalo State. DePeters was the head coach of her 17U team, something that factored into her decision to choose Buffalo State.

“She (DePeters) has a lot of heart,” Renaldo said. “She loves the game, definitely knows the game, and really cares about everybody on the team on and off the court too. I think that’s what makes her a good coach, being able to talk to her off the court and being able to separate that and be a good coach on the court.

We do a lot of team bonding things, we have a lot of team dinners and do a lot of fun activities and stuff like that. She really prides herself on that because I don’t think a lot of other teams do a lot of stuff out of practice or out of a game. Honestly, I don’t really know where I would be if I didn’t have her as a coach when I was 17, because I came from a really small school and she really gave me a lot of confidence.

Renaldo’s first choice was Brockport, but with DePeter’s leading the program, she ultimately chose Buffalo State.

Despite all of her success, DePeters remains humble and she continues to want to achieve even more.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to know that your hard work pays off,” DePeters said. “It wasn’t all me by any means, it was the girls and the girls jumping onto the bandwagon of the program. But this is the potential this program has had for decades, it just never tapped into it or hasn’t had the people to get them there.

When I came to this school and it was at the level it was at I go ‘Why are we at this level?’ I mean you looked at the facilities, you looked at the school, the location, the majors, there is so much this school has to offer for athletes at a Division-III level.

It was a lot of hard work,” DePeters continued, “but, it was easy when you tap into a lot of the resources that Buffalo State has and it’s a great honor, but, also this is just where Buffalo State should be not only just here but we can be at an even higher level. I’ve completed some goals but I have yet to reach several more.”

DePeters already has those future goals planned out.

“My goals for the future are to always be a top competitor in the conference,” DePeters said. “Always be top-three team. I always want to be in that final match, that is just my ultimate goal for SUNYAC’s. But my ultimate goal is to be a nationally ranked team.

“I want to start in the preseason top 25 and I want to end in the AVAC coaches poll top 25 at the end of the season.”

Renaldo, who will be going into her senior season, and has been a part of this program’s transformation, feels the future is bright as well.

“We’ve got a lot of new people coming in,” Renaldo said. “We lost some key players this season so we’ve got a lot of hard work to do and a lot stuff to work on, but, I think that her (DePeters) recruiting and the people we have on the team now, we can definitely go far again next year.”