Box Score (PDF)
By Mike Ashcraft
ATHENS, Ohio -- How did the Ohio volleyball team (10-12, 4-4 MAC) respond to its toughest loss of the 2017 season? By bouncing back with its best win of the year to date.
The Bobcats shook off a tough 3-2 (17-25, 25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 19-17) loss to Toledo on Friday (Oct. 13) by sweeping Mid-American Conference West Division favorite Ball State (13-8, 5-3 MAC), 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-18), in front of over 500 fans on the program's 2017 Dig Pink night at the Convocation Center.
"It was a huge win for us, confidence-wise," said sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas). "We can walk around saying we beat the two teams who were predicted to win both side of the MAC. So, for our confidence, that helps us a lot. Now, we can play at a high level and know that we're that good. That kind of shows us our potential and how good we can be."
Saturday's win marked Ohio's first sweep since posting a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-20) win over Southeastern Louisiana on Aug. 26 in the final match of the Courtyard By Marriott Invitational in Birmingham, Ala.
Ohio combined to hit .278 with 51 kills while limiting the Cardinals to a .156 hitting percentage and just 37 kills.
"We played as a team," said junior setter/outside hitter Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio). "That was the first time that everyone did their own individual part as best as they could. We were working for each other, and it went really well in our favor."
"I was just incredibly impressed with our team today," said fourth-year head coach Deane Webb. "One thing we really talked about was just functional communication. There were too many times last night that we weren't communicating at a high level, weren't communicating soon enough, weren't stopping things to talk about what went right and what went wrong. Today, it was so much better. Not just on the court, but during timeouts. What they were talking about between sets. They chose to be a more mature team today, and that showed. We had a couple of players that really stepped up. Lizzie and Tia have had a lot of big game for us this year, but I think Steph today on the right was really, really good. She really was a game-changing attacker. Macy, last night in the fifth set, there was a moment, I don't everybody saw, but there was a moment she moved the entire serve receiving pattern around, and she moved people out of the pattern who are upperclassmen. She kind of grew up into being a libero at that point. And, then, today, comes out and gets 27 digs in three sets -- and not easy digs. I mean, tough balls. I can't say enough how impressed I was of how she and Steph both played."
Stephens led the match with 19 kills and added a service ace, an assisted block and six digs. She hit at a career-best .349 clip. Olman hit a career-best .267 with 12 kills and matched her career high four assisted blocks. She also had two digs. Freshman middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) hit at a .346 rate with 12 kills and also had two assisted blocks. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Carley Remmers (Filley, Neb.) finished with five kills and 10 digs. Sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Sara Januszewski (Oak Creek, Wis.) logged three kills and five assisted blocks. Freshman setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) totaled a match-high 44 assists and achieved her ninth double-double and fifth in a row with 12 digs. She also tallied a service ace and two assisted blocks. Freshman libero Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.) achieved a career-high by leading the match with 27 digs. She also chipped in four assists.
Ohio jumped out to an 8-5 lead in the opening set, with three kills by Jimerson and two by Olman helping the Bobcats build up the advantage. Ball State responded with a 14-7 run to snatch a 19-15 lead, utilizing three kills by sophomore middle hitter Sydnee VanBeek, two by junior outside hitter/opposite hitter Brooklyn Goodsel and a double block by Goodsel and redshirt junior middle hitter Meg Starling. A kill by Stephens sparked a rally by the Bobcats, though, as Ohio outscored the Cardinals, 10-3 down the stretch to take a 1-0 lead in the match. Olman led the late charge with three kills while Stephens tallied two and Remmers and Jimerson each tallied kills. Olman and Jimerson each finished the first set with a team-high six kills and an assisted block while Stephens chipped in five kills.
The second set saw the Bobcats sprint out to a 10-3 lead and never look back. Ohio scored the first six points of the set, taking advantage of a double block by Stephens and Januszewski, a kill by Olman, back-to-back double blocks by Januszewski and Olman and a pair of Ball State attack errors. Ohio led by as many as 10 points twice, with another kill by Olman making it 20-10 and a kill by Jimerson making it 22-12. A double block by Januszewski and Olman sealed the set win and a 2-0 lead in the match for Ohio. Olman hit .364 in the second set with four kills and three assisted blocks while Stephens hit .333 with seven kills and Januszewski tallied four assisted blocks and a kill.
"I think it says that even though we're young, we're all very high level," said Reihing of Ohio's ability to stay competitive despite a roster depleted by injuries. "We're skilled, and we're diverse. Stephanie has played three positions this year. You can put anyone in at any position, and they will work their hardest no matter what, and we'll get it done."
An Ohio attack error gave Ball State an early 6-5 lead in the third set, but it proved to be the last lead the Cardinals enjoyed. The Bobcats broke a 12-all tie with four-straight points, utilizing a kill by Jimerson, kills by Stephens and Remmers and another kill by Jimerson. Ohio never looked back and never led by less than two points the rest of the way. After a service ace by Goodsel cut Ball State's deficit to two at 20-18 and forced Ohio to call timeout, the Bobcats scored five-straight points to close out the sweep courtesy of back-to-back attack errors by the Cardinals, a kill by Stephens, a kill by Olman and a match-clinching service ace by Stephens. Stephens saved her best for the final set, hitting .538 with seven kills. As a team, Ohio hit a match-best .325 with 17 kills in the third set.
Junior middle hitter Emily Holland led Ball State with eight kills and also had an assisted block and two digs. VanBeek finished with seven kills, had a team-high three assisted blocks and added five digs. Sophomore setter Amber Seaman led the Cardinals with 32 assists and also had four kills, an assisted block and eight digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Kate Avila compiled a team-high 20 digs and chipped in two assists. Senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Bailey Baumer finished with 10 digs and three assists.
Ohio will hit the road again next weekend, traveling to DeKalb, Ill., to face Northern Illinois next Friday (Oct. 20), then making the trek to Kalamazoo, Mich., to meet Western Michigan on Saturday (Oct. 21). Both matches are slated for 7 p.m. ET start times.