Another weekend, another weekend on the road for UB volleyball. In one regard, it's a little easier schedule; none of Buffalo's three opponents are ranked, let alone in the top ten. On the other hand, two of the three already combine for 15 wins on the season and the other played known MAC foe Ball State to five sets just a few weeks ago.
(Update) Forgot about the Tuesday road match against Canisius. That's now included, too.
UB's needs are many, but more than anything else they need to find multiple consistent offensive threats, not just alternating strong performances from Valisha Watkins and Megan Lipski. That starts with the back row, where strong defense feeds into good offense. Even when the Bulls have looked better in their first five games, they've had plenty of empty positions where a scrambling or imprecise defense returns possession to their opponents without having mounted a credible attack.
Ole Miss (7-1, 0-0 SEC)
Friday, 11 September; 12:00 PM
All-time series: Ole Miss leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Ole Miss, 3-0; 31 August 2014
2015 Common Opponents: Belmont, Southern Miss
Streams: It looks like this will be aired on the SEC Network+, which is available through WatchESPN only if you already also get the SEC Network. I do not know if there will be an a la carte option.
Live Stats: Gametracker from the Rebels
Rebels Player to Watch: Senior MB Nakeyta Clair
Ole Miss has started the season 7-1 with Clair at the forefront. Named to the 2014 and 2015 Preseason All-SEC teams, the senior currently leads the entire SEC in hitting percentage (.452) and is second among the Rebels in blocks. She had 10 kills in Ole Miss' win over the Bulls last year. Also keep an eye on Melanie Crow, who in limited time is putting up four kills per set.
Last year, Ole Miss swept the Bulls, but UB played the first two sets tight, dropping both 28-26 and 25-22. Such a result this weekend would be a big step forward. Since then, though, the two squads have gone in opposite directions. Ole Miss is once again starting strong after running a 14-0 nonconference schedule last year, while Buffalo is struggling against a top-notch schedule and with a new coach and lineup.
Belmont (2-4, 0-0 Ohio Valley)
Friday, 11 September; 8:30 PM
All-time series: N/A
Last Meeting: N/A
2015 Common Opponents: Ball State (L 3-2), Ole Miss, Southern Mississippi, Murray Sate
Streams: None that I can tell.
Live Stats: Nothing listed right now, but probably available through GameTracker.
Bruins Player to Watch: Junior OH Arianna Person
So frequently I'm picking names from our opponents who are the most frequent attackers, but Person is highlighted for her serves. She's already got 15 aces on the season - averaging one every two sets - and Belmont is averaging 1.69 a set. UB has struggled this season and last in service reception, and this could be a key factor in the game.
On the other hand, Person also has 22 service errors, and Belmont has double the errors they do aces. The Bruins have a mix of results on the season, coming into this weekend on a two-game win streak, but also lost to Albany - who the Bulls swept last season - in five sets. They've also got a match under their belt against MAC team Ball State, and I'm not entirely sure the Bulls could hang into the fifth with the Cardinals right now.
Other than the win against Buffalo, Stony Brook has failed to impress, and Belmont looks to be a bit better than the SeaWolves. Still, Belmont's probably UB's best chance at their first win this weekend.
Southern Mississippi (8-0, 0-0 C-USA)
Saturday, 12 September; 12:00 PM
All-time series: N/A
Last Meeting: N/A
2015 Common Opponents: Ole Miss, Belmont
Streams: Same story as above.
Live Stats: Ditto
Racers Player to Watch: Junior OH Stephany Purdue
Purdue leads the Eagles in hitting, so she's the name that will come up most frequently. But also pay attention to Elise Ames, who's churning out 1.39 blocks per set.
Does anyone on the Eagles' schedule really impress you? Maybe Alabama, but not really, no. I think Murray State is a tougher opponent, but Southern Miss is 8-0, and that's hard to do. They might be UB's strongest blocking opponent yet, averaging nearly ten blocks per match, and though the strength of schedule certainly plays into that, it'll present a big challenge for a UB team still struggling to find multiple attacking options in the same match.
Should video links become available, I'll update. Expect the same for LiveStats links.
Canisius (1-7, 0-0 MAAC)
Tuesday, 15 September; 7:00 PM
Koessler Athletic Center
All-time series: Buffalo leads, 61-8-2. Not a typo.
Last Meeting: Buffalo, 3-0; 30 Aug 2014
2015 Common Opponents: Navy, Akron
Streams: Canisius will be broadcasting this on WatchESPN/ESPN3
Live Stats: Canisius will provide livestats.
Racers Player to Watch: Junior OH Katlyn Tyler
Tyler has topped 100 kills on the season already, averaging above three per set, and hitting just over .200.
See that number above? 61-8-2? Canisius is an opponent that should always be a win for the Bulls in all sports. Whether that happens or not is up for debate. Some of the stats are funky because the Golden Griffins have played three more matches than Buffalo (by sets, they've played 30 to UB's 16), but against a not-terrible schedule, they've found some success offensively.
On the flip side, UB has as many blocks in half the sets as Canisius, so this may be the match that sees Buffalo put together multiple offensive threats at once. Each team has three matches in this intervening weekend, but Canisius also recently lost 3-1 to Akron, who were picked behind the Bulls in the MAC East.