Even with their newfound offensive variety, UB Volleyball is a different team without Amber Hatchett, falling in four sets, 16-25, 25-20, 23-25, 12-25, to crosstown rival Canisius this evening. Buffalo had swept the Golden Griffins in three sets when the two teams met in 2014.
UB bounced back from an atrocious first set to hit .269 in the second and third sets, but was somewhat unlucky to not take a 2-1 match lead when they squandered a 23-22 lead in the third. Canisius dominated the fourth set to win the match going away.
The highlight of this weekend for the Bulls was the improved offensive variety, and tonight's match is the first chance I got to actually watch a video stream. That diverse attack continued, with Akeila Lain, Valisha Watkins, Cassie Shado, and Megan Lipski combining for 28 of UB's 45 kills, and while UB wasn't particularly effective in back row attacks, I felt they cut down on their errors in attacking from the back that we saw earlier in the season.
Despite the changes on the back line - Tessa Ooyama seems Coach Lipsitz's newly favored libero, and Abby Beecher has now played in a few consecutive matches - the Bulls still struggle defensively back there. UB committed 11 errors on service reception, easily the most of any match this season, and was frequently scrambling even on their second touch, unable to corral Canisius serves and attacks into a cohesive strategy of their own. Click through on the sidebar for Paige's take. He offers more knowledge of volleyball strategy and specifics than I can.
Though I bemoan the absence of Amber Hatchett, I was impressed with freshman Megan Wernette, who made her first start in Hatchett's absence. Wernette's four kills and three blocks don't jump off the page given the amount of time she played, but the Naperville, IL native has a knack for big plays, with thundering hits and some timely blocks. I was also impressed with Valisha Watkins' hitting, though I don't have enough familiarity with the sport to offer analysis on why she sometimes seems streaky.
In the end - or I guess not quite the end - the pivotal moments in the match came I think partly due to circumstance. UB held a 23-22 lead in the third, poised to take a lead in the match, but had neither standout Cassie Shado, who continues to produce (10 kills, no errors, 6 blocks today), or Watkins (4 blocks) on the court to defend the front line. Throughout the match, UB found the most success when the blocking game was working, and once Canisius took the third set, they ran away with the fourth. Maybe with Shado and Watkins on at the end those points swing Buffalo's way.
UB is now 0-9 on the year, and I really thought Canisius (2-10) was a winnable match even for this team. Now, I'm not so sure what's favorable ahead. The Bulls have one more weekend before MAC play, and they'll take on New Hampshire, Navy, and Syracuse in Syracuse over the weekend. Preview will probably come Thursday.