For the UB Women's Volleyball team, September and October are separated by much more than a single night's sleep. The team now has record of 13-9, 3-5 in the MAC, which, while still good enough for a playoff spot in the conference tournament should everything hold, is definitely colored by a 1-5 record in October.
This isn't entirely surprising with a look at the schedule: four of UB's last six opponents are above them in the MAC standings, while six of their final eight are below them. With the exception of a final match against Ohio, the tough part of Buffalo's schedule is over. For the forward-looking, the record should improve. For the backward-looking, Buffalo hasn't done a very good job of gutting out a close set, let alone a match, against superior opponents.
WMU - L 17-25, 15-25, 25-17, 16-25
The less said about this match, the better.
Even though UB won a set in this one, it was seriously uncompetitive across the board, with all sets being decided by eight points or more. Despite the scores, UB did hit .248, a couple of ticks above their season mark, but allowed the Broncos to hit .364. Two of the Bulls' usual top contributors were beyond ineffective to the point of detrimental, as leading hitter Tahleia Bishop had a hitting percentage in the deep negative numbers before being benched after two sets, and upperclassmen blocker Amber Hatchett was also in the negative in her one set.
Two freshmen who I've enjoyed watching this season, middle blocker Cassie Shado and outside hitter Skyler Day both had 8 kills and just one error, attacking or otherwise between them. Usual standout Megan Lipski had a double-double with 12 kills and 10 digs, and Akeila Lain, perhaps benefitting from more playing time after Hatchett's benching, led the team with 16 kills.
NIU - L 25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 19-25
For Buffalo, their respite from consecutive losses against MAC West opponents was undefeated-in-the-MAC NIU. The Bulls would play better than the night before, but once again fall in four sets.
UB's win came in the first set, when they took advantage of ten NIU attack errors to build a 17-9 lead, and just barely held on to take the set 25-23. Without Tahleia Bishop for a third straight set, UB was led by those NIU errors and three blocks from Shado. The second and third sets were pictures of offensive efficiency and long rallies, as both teams hit over .240 and combined for ten or fewer errors in each, but NIU twice turned 'late and close' into a victory.
I wrote this Saturday night and rehashed it on the Sunday Weekend Roundup show, which are both linked below, but I'm certainly getting the feeling that this UB team doesn't come from behind or 'gut out' tight sets all that well. The last victory over Akron featured two big rallies, but the Bulls have had a number of tight sets against even or superior opponents and haven't been able to make their own luck more than once or twice.
UB's fourth set against NIU saw them unable to overcome a 14-17 deficit on their way to a 19-25 loss. It was the most lopsided frame of the night.
For the match, Megan Lipski led Buffalo in kills for the third match of the last four with 14, while Akeila Lain also had 12, though she committed several attacking errors and did not earn a block in either of the final two sets. Tahleia Bishop perhaps could have been useful to the team in the first and second sets as she had nine kills to just one error for a .571 hitting percentage after entering the game.
ShadoWatch / DayWatch: Cassie Shado's seven kills came without an error, giving her 15 kills to just one error on the weekend, and Skyler Day led the team in digs.
Buffalo Bulls Olympic Round Up - Bull Run
Volleyball at 11:42
As we hit mid-to-late October, it's time to start looking towards the MAC tournament, which UB has only made twice in program history. As I mentioned above, four of Buffalo's last six opponents are teams currently ahead of them in the standings, while six of the remaining eight matches are against teams below them. Additionally, five of these final eight matches are at home.
FanPoster Paige examines the team's outlook, offers insight into the Tahleia Bishop situation, and looks at the four newcomers who have made a difference for the Bulls this year:
The only stat to really highlight, other than Lipski's usual numbers, is the strong weekend from Akeila Lain, who lead the team with 28 kills over two matches, hitting above .400 in the WMU loss. She didn't win the MAC Player of the Week award for her efforts, but did garner a nomination, at least.
This Week in Bull
UB (RPI 160, MR 142) comes home this weekend for a pair of matches that will *just about* close out their run against the MAC West. I am hopeful the home environment will provide a boost for a team looking to get back on the right track. On Friday UB will play Eastern Michigan (132, 140) at 7:00, while on Saturday they'll go against Central Michigan (231, 196) at 7:30 following the football game.