As a teenager, Blair Brown Lipsitz enjoyed playing softball. That is, until a family friend looked at her and suggested a different sport. “He said, ‘You need to play volleyball,’” Lipsitz recalls. “I thought, I don’t know, I like softball, and he was like, ‘Yeah, but you’re 6-foot-1 and 14!’”
That friend had tremendous foresight.
Lipsitz began playing competitively at Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Va., about an hour northwest of Washington, D.C. During her senior year, The Washington Post named her All-Metropolitan Player of the Year after she led the Vikings to a 29-0 record and a state title.
She played four years at Penn State, a powerhouse in women’s volleyball. The Nittany Lions won the national title each of her four years. Only two other individuals have played on Division I teams that won four consecutive national championships, according to Russ Rose, the legendary Penn State women’s coach. Lipsitz was also the Big Ten Player of the Year and a two-time All-American.
She played professionally overseas for a few years after college and co-founded the U.S. Elite Volleyball Camp with her husband, Max, who grew up in Williamsville, N.Y. He also played at Penn State, although the men’s team won only one national title during his time there. “His brother’s favorite line is, ‘Between the three of us, we have five national championships,’” Lipsitz says with a laugh.
The couple moved to Buffalo in 2013. About a year later, Reed Sunahara, whom Lipsitz met during her collegiate career, accepted the head coaching position at UB. She joined the staff as a volunteer assistant, and when Sunahara left this past March to take the head coaching job at West Virginia, UB Athletics Director Danny White hired Lipsitz to replace him.
She’s hoping to create the kind of excitement around women’s volleyball that has existed at Penn State for decades. The signs of progress are all around, Lipsitz says. “It’s an exciting time to be here. You can feel the buzz within the athletic department. A lot of new coaches are here, and we’re all kind of feeding off of each other.”
Lipsitz is equally enthusiastic about her team. The Bulls conference schedule begins in September, and the team is eyeing a second straight trip to the MAC Tournament. “The girls are fantastic,” she says. “We’re really focused on building a championship culture. It takes time, but a lot of it is having that work ethic and passion. I think the girls have that here.”
BLAIR BROWN LIPSITZ AT A GLANCE:
• Named UB volleyball head coach April 2015
• Won four national championships at Penn State
• Two-time All-American
• Big 10 Player of the Year
• Founder, U.S. Elite Volleyball Camp