The schedule doesn't get any easier for UB Volleyball, who will follow their season-opening weekend in Penn State with a two-match weekend in the Pacific Northwest that puts them at odds with a pair of 2014 NCAA Tournament teams.
UB will need improved play on both offense and defense on the back row, where Blair Lipsitz' short rotation has some players playing for the first time. The Bulls have seen strong blocking up front, but inconsistent hitting all around and poor reception in the back. It's admittedly early, but while Cassie Shado is out to a hot start, UB will need more varied contributions.
#7 Washington (3-0, 0-0 PAC-12)
Friday, 4 September; 4:00 PM (Eastern)
Huskies Player to Watch: Sophomore OH Courtney Schwan
Washington has three players averaging 3.00 kills per set or more, four hitting .400 or better, and five averaging a full block per set or more. Schwan is the most versatile of the bunch, but is not the focal point of the Huskies offense by any means. Washington's two-setter system is buttressed by multiple options at every role.
UB's trip to Washington will be their first match against a PAC-12 team since a 3-1 loss to Washington State in 2005, and their first against a top-ten opponent since a 3-0 loss to Penn State last Friday. Washington blitzed the first weekend of their schedule, winning nine straight sets against Gonzaga, Boise State, and Portland State as every player on the roster saw time.
Like Buffalo, Washington has a new coach this season in former Assistant Keegan Cook, but didn't lose any players to the transition. The Huskies were selected third in the PAC 12 preseason poll, garnering the lone non-Stanford first place vote (presumably Stanford's), while senior middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon was selected to the preseason all-conference team.
Murray State (3-0, 0-0 Ohio Valley)
Saturday, 5 September; 5:00 PM (Eastern)
All-time series: N/A
Last Meeting: N/A
2015 Common Opponents: Washington, Belmont
Streams: If video is available, it will again be through Washington, and I think it might be. Same wait-and-see we have above.
Live Stats: Live stats will definitely be available, at the same link as above.
Racers Player to Watch: Junior OH Scottie Ingram
Like Washington, Murray State boasts a balanced and effective attack early in the season, and boasts in Ingram an all-around player who is among the team leaders in kills, aces, and digs and only subbed out once in Murray State's first three matches last weekend. Should the Bulls manage Ingram, they'll still be contending with OVC Players of the Week Kristen Besselsen (RS) and Sam Bedard (S).
Murray State isn't ranked, but they're still the reigning OVC Champions, preseason pick to win that conference, and are coming off an NCAA appearance last year. Like Washington, the Racers didn't drop a set in their first weekend, and UB will face another tough test in their quest for their first win, especially considering Murray State racked up 20 aces in nine sets this year.
UB has put together more blocks than Murray State, who had only 12 in three matches last weekend, and one thinks that Buffalo's offense may have more room to place their attacks than in other matches so far this season. On the other hand, Murray State averaged 17 digs a set in their opening weekend, and it may be difficult for UB to find kills, even with less of a front line presence.
Look hopefully for the Bulls to find an effective attacking option from the outside, as right now Shado and Amber Hatchett have been Buffalo's most efficient attackers, and for UB as a team to improve on their defensive struggles from the first weekend.
I'll update this space with the video links once Washington makes them available.