By Mike Ashcraft
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Ohio volleyball team's starting lineup featured five underclassmen on Saturday (Aug. 26) in the team's final match of the Courtyard By Marriott Invitational. Three of those student-athletes wound up earning a spot earning a spot on the all-tournament team.
The Bobcats (3-0) sealed their season-opening weekend tournament crown with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-20) sweep of Southeastern Louisiana (0-3) at Pete Hanna Center.
"We had a good day attacking," said fourth-year head coach Deane Webb. "Today was really a balanced effort by a number of people who were able to get in and contribute. Every member of the team played today, which is always good."
On Friday (Aug. 25), Ohio opened up the 2017 season with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-23) sweep of Murray State in the morning, then pulled out a hard-fought win over tournament host Samford, 3-2 (25-19, 17-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-10) in the evening.
"It's good to see the young kids find success," said Webb. "It's good that we have a team that will embrace young players being successful. That's not always the case. Some teams, if a kid comes in and has success early, some people would have an issue with that. It truly is a supportive group. A number of upperclassmen played well, also. Today, and, for the weekend, those kids played a little bit better. It says a lot for our potential. It says a lot for what we can be this year. It says a lot that we're nowhere near our potential right now. It also says a lot for future years."
The Bobcats placed three players on the All-Courtyard By Marriott Invitational Team -- freshman setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy), freshman middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) and sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Frisco, Texas).
Giazomazzi was named the tournament's most valuable player after distributing 123 assists (11.18 per set) over three matches. She also logged 26 digs (2.36 per set) to rank fifth on the squad, four kills, two service aces and six assisted blocks (0.55 per set).
"It feels great. I'm feeling great right now," said Giacomazzi. "I want to thank the team, because they were great in this tournament, helping me as a freshman and as an international player. The coaches helped me a lot, also, giving me directions. They were great. This MVP, it's great, because I didn't really expect that. I did my job. I gave everything, and I tried to do my best."
Jimerson finished the weekend with 29 kills (2.64 per set) to rank third on the squad and led Ohio with 15 total blocks (two solo, 13 assisted; 1.36 per set).
Stephens finished second on the team with 34 kills (3.09 per set) and ranked fourth with 28 digs (2.55 per set). She also tallied two service aces and five assisted blocks (0.45 per set).
"It builds it (confidence), knowing that I played at a pretty high level this weekend and did what I could for my team," said Stephens. "I couldn't have had that success without Vera setting me the balls and our defense behind us helping me set up for success."
Senior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) led Ohio's attack, hitting .379 with a match-high 15 kills and three service aces. She also compiled four digs. Jimerson totaled nine kills, a match-high four assisted blocks and a dig. Stephens contributed seven kills, three assisted blocks, a service ace and five digs. Redshirt junior middle blocker Katie Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan) posted six kills and two assisted blocks. She hit at a .750 pace. Giacomazzi dished out a match-high 42 assists and also added a kill, a service and a dig. Freshman libero Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.) piled up a match-high 11 digs and chipped in an assist.
The Bobcats took advantage of four service errors by Southeastern Louisiana to come away with a seven-point win in the opening set. Kosiorek led the way with three kills and two service aces while Jimerson and Nelson each recorded three kills and an assisted block.
Ohio rolled to another 25-18 win over the Lady Lions in the second set. The Bobcats broke an eight-all tie with a kill by Kosiorek and proceeded to outscore Southeastern Louisiana 17-10 the rest of the way. Kosiorek totaled five kills down the stretch while Nelson added two. Giacomazzi tallied a service ace and Stephens and Jimerson teamed up for a double block. Ohio had set point at 24-15, but the Lady Lions notched three-straight points to stay alive. Nelson ended the set with her sixth kill of the match. The Bobcats hit .406 with 12 kills in the second set while holding Southeastern Louisiana to just a .097 hitting percentage.
Ohio hit .300 in the third set with a match-high 16 kills. Kosiorek and Jimerson each posted five kills in the set while Stephens added three more. Southeastern Louisiana hit .000 with six kills and six errors. The Lady Lions held a 17-15 lead, but the Bobcats rallied by closing out the match on a 10-3 run that featured three kills by Kosiorek, which included the match clincher, two kills by Jimerson, a kill and a service ace by Stephens and a double block by Stephens and Jimerson.
Sophomore outside hitter Chloee Holden led the Lady Lions with seven kills and also had two digs. Sophomore middle blocker Savannah Alcazar posted six kills, a team-high three total blocks (one solo, two assisted), a service ace and two digs. Junior setter Haley Baker distributed a team-high 14 assists and also had five digs. Junior defensive specialist Lexie Torres logged a team-high six digs and two service aces and also recorded an assist.
Ohio makes the drive west to take on-state rival Dayton (2-1) next Tuesday (Aug. 29). The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET at the Thomas J. Frericks Athletic and Convocation Center. The Flyers, who received votes in the preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association poll with 71 points, won two of three matches this weekend at the Northern Illinois Holiday Inn Express Invitational in DeKalb, Ill. Dayton suffered a 3-0 (25-19, 28-26, 25-18) sweep at the hands of Cal Poly on Friday bounced back with a 3-1 (20-25, 25-18, 25-12, 25-14) victory over tournament host Northern Illinois that evening and a 3-1 (21-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-23) triumph over High Point on Saturday.