ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio volleyball team is set to host No. 20-ranked Pittsburgh in an exhibition match on Saturday (Aug. 18) at the Convocation Center. Action gets underway at 1 p.m. EST. Admission is free.
There will be no live stats or streaming feed available for Saturday's match.
The Bobcats are coming off of a 2017 season that saw Ohio go 17-15 -- including a 10-6 mark in Mid-American Conference play. Ohio earned the No. 4 seed in the 2017 MAC Championship and a bye to the tournament quarterfinals. Ohio topped Eastern Michigan, 3-1, to advance to the league tournament semifinals for the 16th year in a row. Returning for Ohio in 2018 will be 2017 MAC Setter of the Year Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy), 2017 MAC Freshman of the Year Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) and 2017 First Team All-MAC outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Frisco, Texas). Outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) -- a 2016 All-MAC Honorable Mention selection -- will also be back for a final season after redshirting the 2017 campaign due to injury.
The Bobcats have gone 81-43 (.653) in four seasons under the direction of head coach Deane Webb -- including 50-14 (.781) in MAC play. Ohio won a MAC regular season title with a perfect 16-0 (1.000) league year in 2014, then captured the conference tournament title in 2015.
Last Saturday (Aug. 11), the White Team topped the Green Team, 4-1, in the program's annual Green & White Scrimmage at the Convo.
The Green & White Scrimmage marked the unofficial Ohio debuts of five true freshmen -- outside hitter Ila Angermeier (Kirtland, Ohio), defensive specialist Virginia Natale (Garrettsville, Ohio), outside hitter/right side hitter Lauren Park (Millersburg, Ohio), setter Kyra Slavik (Saint Charles, Ill.) and defensive specialist/setter Emily Walsh (Allen, Texas). The event also saw the returns of Kosiorek, redshirt freshman middle blocker Dahlias Bouyer (Brownstown, Mich.), redshirt junior middle blocker Simone Miller (Kalamazoo, Mich.) and redshirt senior right side hitter Katie Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan) who all missed either all or the majority of the 2017 season due to injuries.
The Bobcats will return 13 of the 2015 squad's 15 student-athletes -- Bouyer, Giacomazzi, Jimerson, Kosiorek, Miller, Nelson, Stephens, junior libero/defensive specialist Meredith Howe (Grand Rapids, Mich.), junior middle blocker Sara Januszewski (Oak Creek, Wis.), senior right side hitter Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio), sophomore libero/defensive specialist Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.), redshirt junior outside hitter Carley Remmers (Filley, Neb.) and junior outside hitter/defensive specialist Allyson Vaughn (Glenview, Ill.).
Ohio's bench features a coaching staff with both familiar and new faces. Joining Webb for a fifth season in Athens is assistant coach Maggie Couture. Rodnei Santos enters his second year as an assistant coach on Webb's staff. Laura Santos moves from the director of operations role to the volunteer assistant coach spot for her second season with the Bobcats. New to the Ohio coaching staff this year are director of operations Adam Kuntz and graduate manager/technical coordinator Andy Rynd.
Ohio will have the chance to test both its talent and its depth on Saturday against Pittsburgh. The Panthers went 26-7 in 2017 and finished the season ranked No. 28 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Pittsburgh sported an 18-2 mark in conference play and clinched a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference title, giving the Panthers their first league crown in program history. Pittsburgh earned a 3-1 win over VCU in an NCAA Championship First Round matchup before falling to in-state rival Penn State in the Second Round, 3-1. On Wednesday (Aug. 8), Pittsburgh was ranked No. 20 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Top-25 Poll. The Panthers also received all 14 possible first-place votes in the 2018 ACC Preseason Coaches Poll, which was announced on Aug. 3. Pittsburgh is led by sixth-year head coach Dan Fisher. He was named AVCA East Coast Region Coach of the Year and ACC Coach of the Year last season. Redshirt junior outside hitter Stephanie Williams returns after earning AVCA Division I Honorable Mention All-America honors for the second year in a row in 2017. Junior right side hitter Nika Markovic garnered AVCA Division I Honorable Mention All-America honors for the first time in 2017. Markovic, Williams and setter Kamalani Akeo all earned AVCA All-East Coast Region accolades and All-ACC First Team honors in 2017 while sophomore outside hitter Kayla Lund was named AVCA East Coast Region Freshman of the Year.
After its exhibition match against Pittsburgh, the real season begins for Ohio. The Bobcats will make the drive up U.S. Route 33 to Columbus to compete in the Sports Imports Classic hosted by in-state rival Ohio State next weekend (Aug. 24-25) to open the regular season. Ohio matches up with Texas A&M next Friday (Aug. 24) at 4 p.m., then matches up with the Buckeyes at 12:30 p.m. and Albany at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday (Aug. 25).