ATHENS, Ohio -- The 2018 regular season begins for the Ohio volleyball team this weekend in Columbus. The Bobcats will make the drive up U.S. Route 33 to compete in the Sports Imports Classic hosted by in-state rival Ohio State this weekend (Aug. 24-25) at St. John Arena. Ohio matches up with Texas A&M on Friday (Aug. 24) at 4 p.m., then takes on the host Buckeyes at 12:30 p.m. and Albany at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday (Aug. 25). Jake Hromada, 'The Voice of Ohio Volleyball', and Gabe Genovesi will have the call of the action on OhioBobcats.com via Stretch Internet's GameCentral.
WEEK ONE • SPORTS IMPORTS CLASSIC • ST. JOHN ARENA • COLUMBUS, OHIO • NOTES
Friday, Aug. 24, 2018 | Ohio vs. Texas A&M | 4 p.m. EST | OhioBobcats.com Audio Stream | StatBroadcast
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018 | Ohio at Ohio State | 12:30 p.m. EST | Big Ten Network Plus ($) | OhioBobcats.com Audio Stream | StatBroadcast
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018 | Ohio vs. Albany | 5:30 p.m. EST | OhioBobcats.com Audio Stream | StatBroadcast
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.
IN IT TO WIN IT
Ohio has been selected to win the MAC East Division, regular season and tournament titles in the league's 2018 preseason coaches' poll, the conference office announced on Wednesday (Aug. 22).
The Bobcats earned nine of the MAC East Division's 12 first-place votes and finished with 68 points. Ohio earned eight of 11 votes to win the regular season crown and five of 11 votes to win the tournament title. The poll was voted on the conference's 12 head coaches, with one head coach choosing not to select a regular season or tournament champion.
READY FOR AN ENCORE
Junior outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas), sophomore setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) and middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) represented Ohio on the 2018 Preseason East Division All-MAC Team.
Stephens, who was named a team co-captain on Tuesday, played in all 32 matches and appeared in all 122 sets in her 2017 sophomore season, earning All-MAC First Team honors. She led both the team and the MAC and ranked 66th in the country with a career-high 443 kills (3.63 per set), which ranks as the eighth-most in a single season in program history in the rally scoring era. She posted double-digit kills 25 times -- including 20 or more three times. Stephens led both the team and the MAC and ranked fifth in the nation with a career-high 60 service aces, which ranks as the fourth-most overall in program history and most in program history in the
rally scoring era. She posted three or more service aces on 10 occasions. Her 0.49 service aces per set led both the team and the MAC and ranked sixth in the country and rank as the most in program history in the rally scoring era. Stephens led the team and ranked second in the MAC with a career-high 527.5 points (4.32 per set), which ranks as the ninth-most in program history in the rally scoring era. She posted 20 or more points 10 times. Stephens also ranked second on the team with a career-high 320 digs (2.62 per set) and posted double-digit digs 15 times -- including 20 or more two times.
Giacomazzi played in 32 matches and appeared in 121 sets in her 2017 freshman campaign, earning MAC Setter of the Year and All-MAC First Team honors as well as a spot on the MAC All-Freshman Team. She ranked second in the MAC and 30th in the country with a team-high 1,278 assists (10.56 per set; fourth in the MAC) -- the most assists in a single season by an Ohio freshman in the rally scoring era in program history, the ninth-most assists in a single season by any player in the rally scoring era and the 10th-most in a single season by any player in the overall history of the program. She tallied 40 or more assists 17 times, 50 or more assists eight times and 60 or more assists once. Giacomazzi ranked third on the team with 306 digs (2.53 per set) and posted double-digit digs 14 times. She achieved 14 double-doubles. Giacomazzi also ranked third on the team with 52 total blocks (two solo, 50 assisted; 0.43 per set).
Jimerson played in all 32 matches and appeared in all 122 sets in her 2017 rookie season, earning MAC Freshman of the Year and All-MAC First Team honors as well as a spot on the MAC All-Freshman Team. She led the team and ranked fourth in the MAC and 59th in the country with a .358 attack percentage (409 kills-112 errors-829 total attacks), which tied for the third-best hitting percentage in a single season in the rally scoring era and tied for fifth-best in a single season in the overall history of the program. Jimerson ranked second on the team and fourth in the MAC with 409 kills (3.35 per set) and posted double-digit kills 21 times -- including 20 or more three times. She led the team with 105 total blocks (25 solo, 80 assisted; 0.86 per set), with her 25 solo blocks tied for the seventh-most in a single season in the rally scoring era of the program. She posted five or more total blocks 10 times. Jimerson also ranked second on the team with 479 points (3.93 per set) and posted 20 or more points six times.
Stephens will join redshirt senior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) and redshirt senior right side hitter Katie Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan) as Ohio volleyball's team co-captains for the 2018 season.
Kosiorek and Nelson are entering their second seasons serving as team co-captains.
In addition to Kosiorek, Nelson and Stephens serving as team co-captains, junior libero/defensive specialist Meredith Howe (Grand Rapids, Mich.) enters her second season serving as the program's second-ever academic captain.
THE DEANE OF OHIO VOLLEYBALL
Deane Webb is in his fifth year as the head coach of the Ohio volleyball program in 2018. The Bobcats have gone 81-43 (.653) in four seasons under the direction of 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, the latter of which propelled the 'Cats to their 10th NCAA Championship appearance in program history.
The Bobcats have also excelled in the classroom under Webb. Ohio's 22 Academic All-MAC selections since Webb's arrival in Athens are the most under any head coach in the history of the Ohio volleyball program.
Webb owns an overall career coaching record of 451-259 (.635) over 21 seasons -- including 310-199 (.609) over 16-plus seasons at the NCAA Division I level.
MEET THE COACHING STAFF
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.
SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE
The Bobcats' 29-match regular season slate is highlighted by four non-conference tournaments, 11 home matches at the Convocation Center and 16 MAC matchups. The Bobcats will battle six teams that ranked in the top 100 of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) in 2017 and three 2017 NCAA Championship qualifiers -- including defending national champion Nebraska, regional semifinalist Missouri and MAC archrival Miami.
FOR THE RECORD
As a team, the 2017 squad's 183 service aces rank as the fourth-most in the rally scoring era in program history while its 1.50 service aces per set and 4,531 attacks both rank sixth, its 1,940 digs rank seventh and its 15.90 digs per set rank 10th.
The following weekend, Ohio hosted the 2017 Bobcat Invitational presented by Texas Roadhouse at the Convocation Center. The tournament was highlighted by the Bobcats rallying from two sets down to defeat Oklahoma, 3-2 (19-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-21, 15-7).
The Bobcats welcome back 13 of the 2017 team's 15 student-athletes.
In addition to Giacomazzi, Howe, Jimerson, Kosiorek, Nelson and Stephens, redshirt freshman middle blocker Dahlias Bouyer (Brownstown, Mich.), redshirt junior middle blocker Simone Miller (Kalamazoo, 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.) are all back for Ohio in 2018.
READY FOR A COMEBACK
Bouyer, Kosiorek, Miller and Nelson all missed either all or the majority of the 2017 season due to injuries.
Kosiorek was an All-MAC Honorable Mention selection in 2016. Her 3,151 total attacks rank eighth overall in program history and sixth in the rally scoring era. Her 120 service aces are ninth overall in program history and third in the rally scoring era. Her 0.35 service aces per set rank third in the rally scoring era in program history. Her 1,038 kills rank ninth in the rally scoring era in program history. Her 3.02 kills per set rank eighth in the rally scoring era in program history. Her 1,223.0 points rank 10th in the rally scoring era in program history. Her 3.56 points per set rank seventh in the rally scoring era in program history.
In 2016, Nelson led the team with a career-high 91 total blocks (17 solo, 74 assisted; 0.89 per set), recording five or more total blocks on a career-high seven occasions. She ranked fourth on the team with a career-high 201 kills (1.97 per set) and recorded double-digit kills on a career-high seven occasions.
Miller ranked third on the team with a career-high 49 total blocks (10 solo, 39 assisted; 0.98 per set) in 2016.
With the squad plagued by injuries to key players, several Bobcats rose to the occasion to help keep Ohio competitive in 2017.
Olman ranked third on the team with a career-high 203 kills (1.95 per set) and posted double-digit kills a career-high nine times.
Januszewski totaled a career-high 158 kills (1.48 per set) to rank fourth on the team and posted double-digit kills three times. She also compiled a career-high 80 total blocks (nine solo, 71 assisted; 0.75 per set) to rank second on the team and posted five or more total blocks five times.
Vaughn ranked fourth on the team with a career-high 23 service aces (0.20 per set). She also tallied three or more service aces on two occasions.
Howe ranked fourth on the team with a career-high 275 digs (2.46 per set) and tallied double-digit digs on a career-high 15 occasions. She also ranked second on the team with a career-high 27 service aces (0.24 per set).
Remmers totaled a career-high 110 kills (1.43 per set) to rank fifth on the team and posted double-digit kills once. She also tallied a career-high 199 digs (2.58 per set) to rank fifth on the team and Posted double-digits 12 times -- including 20 or more once.
Though Giacomazzi and Jimerson earned all-conference accolades in 2017, Reihing put together a freshman campaign to remember as well. Her 484 digs led the team and ranked as the 10th-most in a single season in history and eighth-most in the rally scoring era while her 4.14 digs per set ranked as the ninth-most in a single season in the rally scoring era in program history. She tallied double-digit digs on 24 occasions -- including 20 or more nine times and 30 or more once.
WELCOME TO ATHENS
New to the Ohio volleyball program in 2018 are 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).
Angermeier was a three-year starter at Lake Catholic High School, serving Served as a senior team captain for the nationally ranked Cougars in 2017 and helping to lead the squad to a second-straight Ohio High School Athletic Association Final Four berth after an undefeated regular season. She was a Second Team All-Ohio selection and earned both First Team Division II and First Team North Coast League honors for the third year in a row in 2017.
Natale was a varsity starter and three-year letterwinner at Walsh Jesuit High School. She owned a career serving percentage of 93% and helped lead the Cavaliers to four Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I district titles (2014-17) and Division I regional runner up finishes in 2016 and '17.
Park was a four-year starter at West Holmes High School, compiling the eighth-most kills in Ohio High School Athletic Association history with 1,634 over her four-year career. She garnered First Team All-Ohio honors as both a senior in 2017 and a junior in '16 after earning Second Team honors in '15.
Slavik was a three-year letterwinner at Saint Charles East High School and was an All-Illinois selection in 2017 after changing from setter to right side hitter due to team injuries, leading the Fighting Saints to their first regional win since '14 and an appearance in the sectional finals as team captain.
Walsh was a Four-year letterwinner at Allen High School and Earned Honorable Mention All-District 6-6A honors as both a junior in 2016 and a senior in '17.
Since the NCAA era began in 1981, Ohio is 15-22 (.405) in season openers -- including 2-2 under Webb. The Bobcats opened last season with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-23) sweep of Murray State on Aug. 25 in the Courtyard by Marriott Invitational in Birmingham, Ala.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: TEXAS A&M
Ohio is 1-1 all-time against Texas A&M. The two teams last met on Sept. 5, 2014 at the Convo -- a 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 26-24) sweep for the Aggies.
Texas A&M finished 10-15 last year -- including 7-11 in Southeastern Conference play.
Laura "Bird" Kuhn is in her first season as head coach of the Aggies. Texas A&M was picked to finish eighth in the SEC preseason poll.
Junior outside hitter Hollann Hans was picked for the Preseason All-SEC Team. She led the Aggies with 298 kills (3.39 per set) and 36 service aces (0.41 per set) a season ago.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: OHIO STATE
Ohio is 2-5 all-time against in-state rival Ohio State since the NCAA volleyball era began in 1981. The Bobcats got the best of the Buckeyes in the last meeting between the two squads. Ohio toppled Ohio State, 3-1 (28-26, 25-22, 24-26, 25-21) on Sept. 13, 2014, in the Millennium Hotel Invitational in Cincinnati.
Ohio State is coming off of a 2017 campaign in which it went 15-16 -- including an 8-12 mark in Big Ten Conference play.
Geoff Carlston is entering his 11th season as the head coach at Ohio State. He has guided the Buckeyes to seven NCAA tournament appearances. Carlston is no stranger to the Bobcats as he served as the head coach at Ohio for five years (2003-07), going 144-22 (.867) -- including a stunning 78-2 (.975) in MAC play. The Bobcats won five-straight conference titles and made five-straight NCAA tournament appearances under his watch -- including a run to the NCAA Championship Regional Semifinals in 2005. Ohio's lone win over Ohio State in Columbus came under the direction of Carlston in the 2005 NCAA Championship Second Round -- a 3-0 sweep for the Bobcats.
Junior middle blocker Madison Smeathers is the top returner for the Buckeyes after ranking third on the team with 212 kills (2.00 per set) and 76 total blocks (four solo, 72 assisted; 0.72 per set).
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: ALBANY
Ohio and Albany are set the meet for only the second time, with the Bobcats taking the first meeting from the Great Danes, 3-1, on Sept. 10, 2005, at the UAlbany Tournament.
Albany went 11-15 overall a year ago but finished 11-1 in America East Conference play. The Great Danes were predicted to repeat as conference regular season champions in the America East's preseason poll.
Head coach MJ Engstrom is back for her 11th year as head coach at Albany. Senior libero Nicole Otero earned her second America East Defensive Specialist of the Year honor in a row in 2017 after totaling 429 digs (4.82 per set). She was joined on the All-America East First Team by redshirt junior middle blocker Akuabata Okenwa, who led the Geat Danes with 290 kills (3.30 per set) and 59 total blocks (two solo, 57 assisted; 0.67 per set).
The Bobcats' travels will take them to Lincoln, Neb., for the second weekend of the season to play in the Ameritas Players Challenge next weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 1). Ohio will be tested immediately when it meets Nebraska in the opening match of the tournament. The Cornhuskers captured their second national championship in the last three years and fifth in program history last year, going 32-4 overall and 19-1 in Big Ten Conference play before punctuating six-straight wins in the NCAA Championship with a 3-1 triumph over Florida in the national title match. Ohio will wrap up the first day of the Ameritas Players Challenge with a contest against Santa Clara. The Bobcats will be playing the Broncos, who ranked No. 94 in the RPI last year, for the first time. Ohio's trip to Lincoln concludes with a matchup with Wake Forest the following day. The Bobcats face the Demon Deacons for the second year in a row and will be looking to avenge a 3-1 loss last September at the Penn State Classic.