It's not multiple NCAA Tournament teams, and it's not Penn State, but UB's early Volleyball schedule is still a plenty good challenge for a team that won only a single game out of conference last season and boasts eight freshmen on a fourteen-woman roster.
There's the expected uncertainty that will come with the start of the season. Who will join Valisha Watkins at outside hitter? How will Scout McLerran and Madison Clark shake out at setter, and how much of a role can Clark have when she's not setting? Aside from designated libero/defensive specialists Maddie Torbeck and Hannah Watson, how will the back row defense, a particular 2015 weakness, shape up? How will serving, another particular 2015 weakness shape up?
John and I have done our best to talk through the storylines as we see them on this young team in Blair Lipsitz' second year. Paige has provided a little more Xs and Os volleyball knowledge, along with a report from the Blue and White Scrimmage.
There's that uncertainty and newness with a young team, and then there's the caliber of opponents this weekend in Northwestern, Virginia, and George Washington. GW is perhaps the odd one out, but still boasted an RPI of around 100 last year. Respectively, the feature five, three, and four seniors in juxtaposition to Buffalo's one, and three, four, and three juniors to Buffalo's one.
They may not be in midseason form, but they enjoy competition against higher-level competition than Buffalo sees on a regular basis. Northwestern upset Penn State last year. Neither the Wildcats nor Cavaliers made the NCAA Tournament, but eight from Northwestern's Big Ten and four from Virginia's ACC did.
GW is the most beatable opponent of the three, especially considered -- as Paige has pointed out in our comments -- UB hasn't so much as taken a set from a power conference opponent since Todd Kress was coach, but they did win 20-plus games in 2015 while advancing to the A-10 Semifinals.
Without any in-season play to go on, it's hard to say much more than 'celebrate Amber Hatchett' and 'good luck learning the new names.' Today's match against the Hoos is at 11:00 AM, while the pair tomorrow are at 11 and 4:00 PM. Let's see what we get.