Fresh off a program first, all of a sudden UB Volleyball is in the same position they were last year with six matches to go and are poised to surprise all preseason expectations in what we thought would be a building season.
Akron (8-15, 2-8 MAC)
Thursday, 29 October; 7:00 PM
All-time series: Akron leads, 25-12
Last Meeting: Akron, 3-1; 24 September 2015
2015 Common Opponents: Canisius (3-1), The MAC
Streams: Akron has video
Live Stats: UB's linking to themselves? Despite it being a road game?
Zips Player to Watch: Seniors Kelsey Wilson and Dragana Micic
The pair are tied for third in the conference with .38 aces per set. Akron had ten aces in their four-set win over the Bulls earlier this year.
If you're allowing yourself to have expectations for this season following a run of strong play from the Bulls, then this one is a 'should-win.' If you're looking through the schedule and seeing last year's six MAC wins and maybe a tournament berth in sight, then this is a 'must-win.'
Akron has beaten UB once this season in a slugfest that saw both teams hit extremely efficiently. Since then UB's back row has tightened up and last weekend we saw much-improved blocking, while Akron only just last Saturday snapped an eight-game losing streak.
Ball State (11-13, 5-5 MAC)
Saturday, 31 October; 7:00 PM
Cardinals Player to Watch: Senior S Jenna Spadafora
Spadafora is the conference leader in assists (though not assists per set). Ball State barely shows up on the MAC individual leader charts outside of Spadafora, but Buffalo fans have seen this year in Marissa Prinzbach and the improving Madison Clark what a good setter can mean to a team.
I'm not sure what to make of Ball State. A historically stronger MAC program from a talent hotbed, they've had an up and down season, opening MAC play with three straight wins, then losing five straight to each of the Michigan teams, Ohio, and Kent State, before sweeping Miami and Bowling Green last weekend. I'd be inclined to say the Cardinals are the toughest test on UB's four-match road swing, but they did lose to both Central and Eastern Michigan in four sets. Between Akron tonight and Bowling Green next weekend, the Bulls have other winnable matches to get to six wins right now, and I'm less concerned about this one.