By Mike Ashcraft
Box Score (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio volleyball team took a small, but important first step on the journey that will be the 2017 season on Thursday (Aug. 17) in front of its fans at the Convocation Center.
Ohio won all four sets (25-11, 25-12, 25-23, 25-11) over Wheeling Jesuit in an exhibition match that unofficially kicked off the new season.
The Bobcats posted a .349 hitting percentage (61 kills-16-errors-129 total attacks), with three players posting double-digit kills. Ohio was exceptional from the service line, totaling 13 service aces.
"I was pleased with our attacking," said fourth-year head coach Deane Webb. "I was pleased with our serve receive. We had 13 aces, and we didn't get aced a single time. That was good to see. Defense, at times it was good, and, at times, not so much. But, that's kind of what we expected coming in. Both our captains had a total of zero hitting errors between them and both hit for around .600, so I was really pleased with what they did. I think tempo, at times with our setters, was not quite what I would like it to be, but we still hit. 350 for the night. I think there was some good moments out there. We attacked pretty well out of the back row, which was good to see. But, there's plenty to work on, as there always is."
Senior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) matched freshman middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) for the match lead with 14 kills and compiled a match-high five service aces. She also chipped in an assisted block and five digs. Jimerson tallied four assisted blocks and also recorded a dig.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Ali Lake (Liberty Township, Ohio) posted four total blocks (one solo, three assisted) and also pitched in seven kills.
Sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Frisco, Texas) added 11 kills, two service aces, an assist and five digs. Stephens was back on the court at full strength after missing much of the 2016 campaign with an injury, as was sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Sara Januszewski (Oak Creek, Wis.), who finished the match with five kills and hit .429.
"It was awesome being back out on the court with my team" said Stephens. "I heard a comment earlier telling me to stay healthy this year, and it's a goal of mine to be able to play the entire season and stay healthy. It felt awesome being back out on the court with them. That atmosphere and the energy that we had out there was awesome."
The Bobcats utilized both of their setters on Thursday. Freshman Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) led the match with 36 assists and also contributed a service ace and five digs while junior Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio) totaled 21 assists, two kills and an assisted block.
"Our practices have been super competitive recently, so it was nice to finally get a crowd in here and show everybody what we've been working on," said Howe. "We were really happy with our serves. We had 13 aces, and that's something we've been working super hard on in practice. It's been a big focus, so it was cool to see that being executed."
Ohio attacked at a .344 pace in the first set, then upped it to .448 in the second, tallying 15 kills in both while holding Wheeling Jesuit to just 16 kills total and taking a 2-0 match lead by outscoring the opposition by a 50-23 count. The Bobcats struggled in the third set and at one point trailed 15-9 after a kill by senior outside hitter Maddy Smith for the Cardinals. Wheeling Jesuit held a 23-19 lead after another kill by Smith, but two kills and a service ace by Kosiorek helped the Bobcats rally to win the set, 25-22. Ohio then ran away with a 25-11 win in the fourth and final set by hitting at a .483 clip with 17 kills while limiting Wheeling Jesuit to just four kills.
Freshman outside hitter Cassie Meyer nearly achieved a double-double for Wheeling Jesuit with a team-high nine kills and 11 digs. She also added an assisted block. Sophomore setter Stephanie Sylvester distributed a team-high 21 assists and totaled a kill and a dig. Sophomore middle blocker/right side hitter Haley Kramer led the Cardinals with three total blocks (one solo, three assisted) and also had eight kills and a dig.
Ohio is set to play host to its annual Green & White Scrimmage on Saturday (Aug. 19) at the Convo. Admission is free. Before the match, the team will host a free clinic for children in kindergarten through sixth grade from 1-2 p.m. ET. While the team warms up for the scrimmage, free activities such as face painting and cornhole will be taking place around the Convo, and the Bobcats will join in with their fans at 2:40 p.m. ET. Scrimmage action is set to get underway at 3 p.m. ET.
"The whole team is super excited," said Howe of the Green & White Scrimmage. "That one is always fun with the kids clinic. We're looking forward to it."
Ohio opens the 2017 season in Birmingham, Ala., at the Courtyard By Marriott Invitational (Aug. 25-26) where it will take on Murray State, host Samford and Southeastern Louisiana. The Bobcats will return to the friendly confines of the Convocation Center Sept. 1-2 to play host to the annual Bobcat Invitational, welcoming Georgia, Oklahoma and High Point to Athens. Ohio's 30-match regular season slate is highlighted by four non-conference tournaments, 12 home matches at the Convocation Center and 16 Mid-American Conference matchups. The Bobcats will battle five teams that ranked in the top-100 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) in 2016 and eight 2016 NCAA Championship qualifiers.