Twelve games on the road, three or four different attempts at a winning combination, a few near-misses, an injury to Amber Hatchett, finally a win over Navy, and now UB gets to play at home.
Better yet, the Bulls will start their MAC season hosting Akron and Toledo, the two worst teams in the conference last year. It's probably unrealistic to view Buffalo as much better than either, but there's a chance UB gets another win and boosts their confidence early.
Akron (6-7, 0-0 MAC)
Thursday, 24 September; 7:00 PM
All-time series: Akron leads, 24-12
Last Meeting: Buffalo, 3-0; 13 November 2014
2015 Common Opponents: Navy (3-0), Canisius (3-1), the entire MAC
Streams: Through UB's UStream, as usual.
Live Stats: Also available through UB
Zips Player to Watch: Junior OH Amanda Bedell
Even at 6-7, Akron isn't good, but Bedell has taken a big step forward from last year. She's hitting .289 and averaging three kills a set while adding some quality blocking.
This will be a good barometer for us early in the MAC season. Last year Buffalo needed six sets to beat the Zips twice, but the two teams moved in opposite directions during the offseason. In 2015 both squads have sweeps of Navy, but Akron was able to get the expected result against Canisius. None of the Zips' victories are against impressive teams, but they have pulled wins.
To some extent Akron has advantages in team stats just from playing more sets, but Bulls fans should be concerned by the Zips' two aces per set. I'd expect that number to be higher against Buffalo
Toledo (3-10, 0-0 MAC)
Saturday, 26 September; 7:30 PM
All-time series: Toledo leads, 20-2
Last Meeting: Buffalo, 3-2; 15 November 2014
2015 Common Opponents: The entire MAC
Streams: Again through UB
Live Stats: Also through UB
Rockets Player to Watch: Sophomore OH Saige Thomas
Thomas might not be Toledo's best attacker - she's one of three Rockets hitting around .250 - but despite leading her team by a long margin in attack errors she's enjoyed an even greater percentage of her team's attacks. I imagine we'll see plenty of her, successful or not.
Toledo may very well be the worst team UB has faced yet, but I felt that way against Canisius and they've played into the fourth and fifth sets more often than UB. Going purely by trends, the Rockets have dropped 12 of 13 first and nine of 13 second sets, so there's potential there for the Bulls to jump out to an early lead. They're a relatively strong blocking team compared to some of UB's recent opponents, so we could see some trouble there, but they're also only playing two seniors and have a long way to go from last year's 1-28 showing. I'm more confident in this match than I am Akron.