By Mike Ashcraft
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It took just one match of the 2017 regular season for the Ohio volleyball team to see one of its own achieve a career milestone.
Senior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) tallied her 1,000th career kill in the third set as the Ohio volleyball team (1-0) swept Murray State (0-1), 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-23) on Friday (Aug. 25) in the opening match of the Courtyard By Marriott Invitational at Pete Hanna Center.
"It feels great," said Kosiorek of hitting 1,000 career kills. "It feels like everything I've worked for is paying off. I think that's awesome. To do it in my first match of my senior year, everything is going in a good direction. To achieve that milestone with the whole season ahead of me is really exciting."
Kosiorek's ninth kill of the match gave the Bobcats an 11-9 lead over the Racers in the third set. She tallied her 12th career double-double with 10 kills and a team-high 15 digs and also logged an assisted block.
"She's obviously had a great career so far and has more to go," said fourth-year head coach Deane Webb. "She's really a competitive kid, as competitive as they come. She really wants to win and is willing to pay the price to win. That's just who she is. She's willing to work. We're really happy for her."
Ohio hit at a .315 (43 kills-nine errors-108 total attacks) rate while holding Murray State to a .081 (27 kills-17 errors-124 total attacks) percentage. The Bobcats also outblocked the Racers, 7-1.
"We slowed a lot of balls down at the net blocking," said Webb of his team's performance. "As the match went on, we got better offensively. Our spacing started to get better, our tempo."
Sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Frisco, Texas) led the match with 13 kills and also achieved a double-double with a career-high tying 13 digs -- her third double-double of her career. Freshman middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) had an impressive collegiate debut, hitting .643 with nine kills and added a match-high four total blocks (one solo, three assisted) as well as two digs. Redshirt senior middle blocker Ali Lake (Liberty Township, Ohio) hit .667 with six kills and chipped in two assisted blocks. Redshirt junior middle blocker Katie Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan) posted three kills, three assisted blocks and two digs. Freshman setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) had a solid showing in her Bobcat debut with 36 assists to go along with two kills, three assisted blocks, a service ace and nine digs. Sophomore libero Meredith Howe (Grand Rapids, Mich.) finished with 13 digs and a team-high two service aces.
"Lizzie played at a pretty high level throughout most of the match," said Webb. "She had a couple of unforced errors early, but, once she got past that, she was really good the rest of the way."
After Murray State scored the first point of the match on a Bobcat attack error, Ohio never trailed again in the opening set. Jimerson's first career kill marked Ohio's first of the year, and she tied Kosiorek for the lead with three kills apiece in the opening set. Giacomazzi dumped the ball over the net for her first career kill, giving Ohio an 11-6 lead. She also teamed up with Nelson on a pair of assisted blocks that sandwiched the first of two service aces by Howe that allowed the Bobcats to take a 21-14 lead and forced Murray State to burn its second timeout. A kill by Nelson, a service ace by Howe and a Murray State service error gave Ohio set point at 24-15. Ohio earned the six-point set win after an attack error by the Racers.
Ohio raced out to a 9-3 lead in the second set thanks to two kills apiece by Lake and Stephens, kills by Jimerson and Giacomazzi and a pair of double blocks by Jimerson and Lake and Nelson and Lake. The Bobcats took a six-point lead at 14-8 after a kill by Kosiorek and a service ace by Giacomazzi, but Murray State rattled off six-straight points to even the set score. Another kill by Jimerson after a service error by the Racers gave Ohio a two-point lead and allowed the Bobcats to stop the bleeding. Back-to-back kills by Stephens made it 19-16 in favor of Ohio. The Bobcats took a 24-19 lead with a kill by Kosiorek, and Ohio then took a 2-0 match lead on an attack error by Murray State. Stephens finished the second set with six kills while Jimerson pitched in three.
Murray State opened the third set with a 6-2 lead, but Ohio clawed back to take a 10-9 advantage courtesy of two kills by Stephens, kills by Lake, Nelson and Kosiorek and a service ace by freshman libero Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.) -- the first of her career. Ohio's lead grew to 15-12 after kills by Kosiorek, Lake and Stephens and a double block by Jimerson and Giacomazzi. Murray State called timeout after back-to-back kills by Stephens made it 17-14 in favor of the Bobcats. The Racers did not quit, though, and put together a 9-5 run to take a 23-22 lead. That's as far as the Bobcats let Murray State get, though, as back-to-back kills by Jimerson followed by another attack error by the Racers ended the match. Stephens totaled six kills in the third set while Kosiorek added four more.
"Always good to get the sweep," said Kosiorek of the win. "First-game jitters are a real thing for every team in the country right now. It's just going out and getting better throughout the match. There were some ups and downs, and it was a little bit iffy in some spots, but we gained what we needed to gain. We did what we do best and came out with the win."
The Racers were led by sophomore outside hitter Rachel Giustino, who totaled 12 kills and achieved a double-double with 11 digs. She also contributed a service ace. Sophomore outside hitter Megan Lindsay and sophomore libero Alex Kaufmann each tallied two service aces and five digs. Freshman setter/outside hitter Ashley McBee dished out a team-high 17 assists for Murray State and also recorded a service ace. Freshman libero Becca Fernandez led the match with 17 digs and also tallied a service ace.
The Bobcats improved to 3-0 all-time against the Racers with Friday's victory.
Ohio will take on tournament host Samford at 8 p.m. ET this evening in a match that will be streamed on the SoCon Digital Network. The Bulldogs faced Southeastern Louisiana in the match following Ohio's sweep of Murray State.