By Jake Hromada
Box Score (PDF)
OXFORD, Ohio -- The No. 4-seeded Ohio volleyball team (17-4, 10-6 MAC) fended off No. 8-seeded Eastern Michigan (16-18, 7-9 MAC), 3-1 (25-20, 26-24, 23-25, 25-23), in a 2017 Mid-American Conference Championship Second Round matchup on Friday (Nov. 17) at Millett Hall.
The Bobcats advance to the MAC semifinals for the 16th year in a row with the victory. Ohio will square off with No. 1-seeded Miami (21-8, 13-3 MAC) in the 2017 MAC Championship Semifinals on Saturday (Nov. 18) at 4:30 p.m. ET. The match will be streamed live on ESPN3. 'Voice of Ohio volleyball' Jake Hromada will have the call on OhioBobcats.com via StretchInternet's GameCentral.
"We started the match with two players that have ever played in a MAC tournament match," said fourth-year head coach Deane Webb. "We ended the match with ten players that have, and now we are five times more experienced than we were two hours ago."
Ohio hit .183 for the match and held EMU to a .155 attack percentage. The Bobcats served up double-digit aces for the fourth time this year with 10.
"It was a tough match in a lot of ways," said Webb. "I give Eastern Michigan a great deal of credit. They played hard on that side. They were aggressive in many facets of the game."
Sophomore outside hitter and First Team All-MAC honoree Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas), MAC Freshman of the Year Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) and junior setter/outside hitter Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio) led the way for Ohio with 13 kills each. Stephens dug 16 shots and aced EMU three times. Stephens recorded her 12th double-double of the season and team-high 25th match with 10 or more kills. Freshman Vera Giacomazzi (San Vandemiano, Italy) -- the MAC Setter of the Year -- recorded her team-high 13th double-double with 46 assists and 11 digs. Freshman libero Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.) corralled a team-high 17 digs along with two aces. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Carley Remmers (Filley, Nebraska) was in double figures, too, with 15 digs.
The 'Cats controlled the first set, only allowing one lead change to Eastern Michigan. EMU was down 13-10 before rattling off a 6-2 run to take a 16-15 lead. EMU didn't have the lead for long, though, after a service and attack error giving Ohio back the lead. The Bobcats didn't look back, as Reihing aced EMU to take a 21-18 lead which forced the Eagles to take a timeout. Three errors on EMU and a Jimerson kill helped Ohio to a 25-20 first set victory.
The second set was vastly different, with Ohio trailing until the final moments of the set. Down 3-0, EMU put together an 8-3 run to take its largest lead of the night. Of EMU's eight points, four were kills, three were Ohio errors and one was an ace. Ohio picked away at EMU's lead by alternating points. Down 19-18, Ohio sophomore libero Meredith Howe (Grand Rapids, Mich.) tied the set with an ace. EMU committed an attack error and gave Ohio their first lead of the set since the early going. Both teams traded points until Ohio committed an attack error to land EMU on set point. After an Ohio timeout, EMU swung into the net to deadlock the second set 24-24. Stephens then aced EMU and Olman corralled a kill to close the set 25-23 and take an Ohio 2-0 lead at half.
Set three saw the same drama. With the set tied at five-all, EMU capitalized off two Ohio errors and a kill to build an 8-5 lead. The 'Cats were down by as many as five in the third set, but cut the deficit within two at 19-17 after back-to-back kills by Stephens and Giacomazzi. The Bobcats were able to get within one 23-22, but fell short in the third set, 25-23.
Set four began with EMU taking a 4-1 lead on Ohio, but the 'Cats rattled off kills by sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Sara Januszewski (Oak Creek, Wisc.) and Remmers along with an ace by Reihing to go up 5-4. From there, both teams alternated points, scrapping their way towards the late points of the set. Tied at 17-all, Ohio got a little breathing room thanks to kills by Januszewski and Stephens, who got kills to go up 19-17 and force EMU to take a timeout. The Eagles would side out after their own timeout, but Ohio didn't let up. The Bobcats went on a 5-2 run to sit on set point 24-19, and EMU called another timeout. The timeout worked, as EMU scrapped their way back to within one point again, 24-23. Jimerson put a set by Giacomazzi away, though to give Ohio the match victory.
"We need to be much cleaner tomorrow," said Webb. "We need to cut down much of our errors, particularly our blocking errors, if we're going to compete with Miami tomorrow night."
Ohio split the 2017 regular season series with Miami, edging the RedHawks, 3-2 (21-25, 25-22, 25-16, 17-25, 15-13), on Sept. 29 at the Convo, but falling by a 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-13) count on Nov. 4 at Millett Hall.
The Bobcats are 3-1 (.750) all-time against Miami in league tournament action. The 'Battle of the Bricks' archrivals have met twice in the MAC semis, with Ohio earning a 3-1 (20-25, 25-23, 25-16, 27-25) win in 2008 and a 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-22) sweep in '10.
Either Ohio or Miami will face either No. 2-seeded Bowling Green or No. 6-seeded Western Michigan in the 2017 MAC Championship Final on Sunday (Nov. 19) at 4:30 p.m. ET, with the winner earning the league's automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Championship field.