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Buffalo Volleyball weekend preview: Kent State, Ohio come to Alumni Arena

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Matt Gritzmacher

This week's Volleyball opponents are tougher tests for UB, and both are one the road. Still, the Bulls played some of their best volleyball of the season last weekend, and hopefully we'll see more in a pair of matches to start off October.

Kent State (8-8, 2-2 MAC)

Friday, 9 October; 7:00 PM 
Alumni Arena

All-time series: Kent State leads, 26-10 
Last Meeting: Kent State, 3-2; 7 November 2014
2015 Common Opponents: The MAC (Miami 2-3, Bowling Green 3-1)
Streams: UB's UStream! 
Live Stats: UB's superior livestats!

Golden Flashes Player to Watch: Sophomore OH Kelsey Bittinger

Bittinger is leading the Flashes lately, averaging 17 kills a match while hitting .364 in conference play. She's second on her team in blocks and digs, as well, and has earned All-Tournament Team honors twice this season. Devoted Bulls fans will remember her from UB's late-season home loss to Kent State in 2014, when Bittinger went Super Saiyan to the tune of 25 kills and seriously hampered Buffalo's postseason chances.

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Dare I say this is winnable? Kent State is better than the three teams UB has claimed wins over this year, and is better than the Akron team that already has a win over the Bulls. But they also needed five sets to beat Albany and are on the aggregate playing their opponents even at best in most stats. It's not a great chance, but given UB's stronger play even in losses since the beginning of the conference season, I think there's a better chance than you might think when comparing records.

Looking a little more deeply, Kent is a bit inconsistent in service, which is good news for the Bulls. They're averaging nine serve errors a match over MAC play and give away as many points in serve receipt as they earn from aces.

Ohio (14-3, 4-0 MAC)

Saturday, 10 October; 7:00 PM 
Alumni Arena

All-time series: Ohio leads, 31-3
Last Meeting: Ohio, 3-0; 8 November 2014
2015 Common Opponents: The MAC 
Streams: UB's UStream!
Live Stats: UB's Superior LiveStats!

Falcons Player to Watch: Senior S Abby Gilleland

She's the best in the MAC, and it's not really close. Gilleland is a two-time MAC Player of the Year and two-time AVCA Honorable Mention All-American.  She was recently named MAC Offensive Player of the Week and MAC Defensive Player of the Week ... in the same week. It sounds like a beer commercial, but it's true. She serves well, she digs well, and she blocks well in addition to elite setting. It'd be well worth your time to spend part of the match focusing on her alone, to be honest.

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Ohio is likely the best opponent UB sees this season after Penn State and Washington, and certainly the best to come into Alumni Arena. They're likely also on a mission this year after rolling to a 16-0 MAC record in 2014 and earning a bye to the Conference Semifinals only be bounced by Western Michigan. Even without that extra motivation, you have to think the Bobcats, receiving votes and unofficially 28th in the AVCA poll, are heavy favorites. They've only dropped a single set in their first four conference matches this year. The day after a more winnable opponent in Kent State, this will provide a nice barometer for the Bulls as they approach the midway point of conference play.

Around the MAC

Believe it or not, right now, UB's in the top eight of the MAC and in position for a conference tournament berth. There are logjams at each end, with Miami and the West Division powers all at 3-1 and Akron, Bowling Green, CMU, and EMU all at 1-3, but only Buffalo and Kent State are 2-2. A win over Kent tomorrow could be key for short-term positioning, since UB will finish their weekend with Ohio, while the Golden Flashes get a relative lightweight in Akron.

In the stats, UB remains one of the top three teams in the conference in blocks despite recent struggles and Cassie Shado is fourth in the conference individually in blocks per set. Megan Lipski is up to eighth in kills per set.