AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — Jasmine Brundage remembers attending Daemen volleyball camps and idolizing the college players who worked as counselors. Actualizing her youthful ambitions, alongside a number of her former Niagara Frontier Volleyball Club teammates, Brundage is proud to be part of a Daemen team representing Western New York in its return to the NCAA Division II tournament.

“I love the volleyball community in Buffalo. It’s one big support system for me,” said Brundage, an East Aurora native who was an All-WNY player for three state Catholic champion teams at St. Mary’s. “We have a lot of girls from NFVB here at Daemen. We talk about the old days all the time. A lot of us go back and coach in the club and are still connected to our high school programs. So it’s really cool to see the younger generation looking up to us.”

With five WNY recruits on the roster, Daemen (20-5) is making its fourth NCAA tournament trip in seven years. The Wildcats won the eight-team East Regional to reach the national quarterfinals last season, and after repeating as East Coast Conference champions received the No. 2 seed this year. They open play against No. 7 Saint Anselm (20-9) at noon Thursday in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“Team over me” has been Deamen’s motto under first-year coach Eli Irizarry, a former Springfield College player who elevated from a graduate assistant position. The Wildcats also remind each other often to “find your why.”

“My why is thinking about how volleyball has always been such a part of my life since I was 6 years old,” said junior setter Olivia Alessi, a three-time All-WNY selection for East Aurora who transferred to Daemen from Duquesne. “It’s always been a dream to be playing at the collegiate level and being here is making my younger self proud.”

Another All-WNY recruit, Sam Logan, played for three state title teams at Eden and was named MVP of the ECC tournament in her third college championship season. She found her why in returning for a fifth year at Daemen.

“It’s been my passion since I was 8 years old,” Logan said. “Reflecting on making it here and fulfilling what I what I wanted to do when I was little is the biggest thing.”

Photo courtesy of Daemen Athletics

Alessi and Brundage, next door neighbors growing up in East Aurora, were club teammates for NFVB, admiring older players like Logan.

“I’ve known Sam since I was 8 and always looked up to her,” Alessi said. “She is a great leader on this team and we will really miss her next year.”

After reaching the NCAA quarterfinals a year ago, Logan believes there is no limit to how far Daemen can advance in her last college season.

“Last year we were going into unknown territory and didn’t know what to expect,” Logan said. “Now we are very aware of what the competition will be going into regionals. We have more experience and more confidence, and will be more comfortable going back into that setting.”

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Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.