ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio volleyball team (8-13, 3-5 MAC) returns to the friendly confines of the Convocation Center this weekend to play host to a pair of Mid-American Conference West Division foes. The Bobcats take on Western Michigan (13-9, 3-5 MAC) on Friday (Oct. 19) in a 7 p.m. matchup, then square off against Northern Illinois (7-16, 5-3 MAC) in a 6 p.m. contest on Saturday (Oct. 20). Friday's match against the Broncos will be streamed live on ESPN3 while Saturday's match against the Huskies will be streamed live on ESPN+. Jake Hromada, 'The Voice of Ohio Volleyball,' will be on the call alongside Gabe Genovesi.
Friday's match will serve as Ohio's 2018 Dig Pink Match. The Bobcats will be sporting their pink jerseys. Ohio has been fundraising for the Side-Out Foundation, which teams with the volleyball community to inspire science and hope in the match against breast cancer. On Saturday, the Bobcats will be taking part in Ohio's 2018 Homecoming festivities. Fans who attend the football team's 2 p.m. game against Bowling Green can present their football tickets at the Convo and receive $2 admission to the volleyball match. The first 100 fans in attendance will receive "Athens State of Mind" koozies.
WEEK NINE • MAC WEEK 5
Friday, Oct. 19, 2018
7 p.m. | Ohio vs. Western Michigan | Convocation Center | Athens, Ohio | Live Stats | ESPN3
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018
6 p.m. | Ohio vs. Northern Illinois | Convocation Center | Athens, Ohio | Live Stats | ESPN+
WEBB TO HOST 'CHALK TALK' PRIOR TO FRIDAY'S MATCH
Prior to the Ohio volleyball team's remaining 2018 Friday home matches at the Convocation Center, fifth-year head coach Deane Webb will hold 'Chalk Talks' from 6-6:35 p.m. in the Rohr Room.
Webb's 'Chalk Talks' will allow fans of the Bobcats to learn more about the sport of volleyball as well hear some insights on the team.
'Chalk Talks' will take place prior to the following matches:
Friday, Oct. 19 vs. Western Michigan
Friday, Nov. 9 vs. Bowling Green
OHIO LOOKS TO BOUNCE BACK FROM LOSSES AT BALL STATE, TOLEDO
The Bobcats will be looking to end a four-match losing skid this weekend. Last Friday (Oct. 12), Ohio dropped a 3-1 (25-20, 28-26, 20-25, 25-18) decision to Ball State at Worten Arena in Muncie, Ind., then suffered a tough 3-2 (25-22, 23-25, 25-19, 14-25, 15-12) setback to Toledo the following day at Savage Arena in Toledo.
IN THE RANKINGS
As a team through 21 matches in 2018, Ohio ranks first in the MAC and 39th in the country with 117 service aces and ranks fifth in the conference and 89th in the nation with 1.44 service aces per set. The Bobcats also rank second in the MAC and 78th in the country with 172 total blocks and rank third in the MAC with 2.12 blocks per set.
IN IT TO WIN IT
Ohio was 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 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.
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 89-56 (.614) under the direction of Webb. -- including 53-19 (.736) 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 459-272 (.628) over 21-plus seasons -- including 318-212 (.600) over 17-plus seasons at the NCAA Division I level.
READY FOR AN ENCORE
Sophomore setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy), sophomore middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) and junior outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas) represented Ohio on the 2018 Preseason East Division All-MAC Team.
Stephens 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.
Through 21 matches in 2018, Stephens ranks second on the team in kills (224; 2.77 per set), service aces (31; 0.38 per set) and digs (182; 2.25 per set). She is tied for third in the MAC and 35th in the country in service aces and fifth in the conference and 75th in the nation in service aces per set. Stephens is tied for the team lead with five double-doubles and has posted double-digit kills 11 times and double-digit digs eight times. She has recorded three or more service aces three times this year. Last Saturday at Toledo, Stephens tied her career high with 23 kills to lead the match.
Stephens now ranks ninth in the rally scoring era in program history with 94 career service aces. Her 0.41 career service aces per set is the top mark in the rally scoring era in program history.
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).
Through 21 matches in 2018, Giacomazzi leads Ohio with 670 assists (8.27 per set), which is good for third in the MAC. She has tallied 40 or more assists seven times, including in six of the last eight matches. Giacomazzi is tied for the team lead with five double-doubles.
Giacomazzi now ranks fifth in the rally scoring era in program history and eighth overall in program history with 1,948 career assists while her 9.64 assists per set rank as the third-most in the rally scoring era in program history.
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.
Jimerson, who returned the lineup two weeks ago after missing the previous 11 matches due to injury, is third on the team with 33 total blocks (four solo, 29 assisted; 0.87 per set) and ranks fourth with 100 kills (2.63 per set).
Stephens joins redshirt senior middle blocker Katie Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan) and redshirt senior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) as Ohio's co-captains for the 2018 season.
Kosiorek and Nelson are in 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.) is in her second season serving as the program's second-ever academic captain.
READY FOR A COMEBACK
Kosiorek, Nelson and redshirt junior middle blocker Simone Miller (Kalamazoo, Mich.) 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 3,898 total attacks rank third overall in program history and third in the rally scoring era. Her 160 service aces are fourth overall in program history and second in the rally scoring era. She is three service aces away from breaking the program's career rally scoring era record. Her 0.38 service aces per set rank second in the rally scoring era in program history. Her 1,263 kills rank sixth in the rally scoring era in program history. Her 2.97 kills per set rank 10th in the rally scoring era in program history. Her 1,504 points rank seventh in the rally scoring era in program history. Her 3.54 points per set rank seventh in the rally scoring era in program history.
Through 21 matches in 2018, Kosiorek leads Ohio with 225 kills (2.78 per set) and 40 service aces (0.49 per set). She enters this weekend ranked seventh in the country in service aces and 15th in service aces per set. She is tied for the team lead with five double doubles and has posted double-digit kills 13 times and double-digit digs seven times this season. Kosiorek has recorded three or more service aces five times this year -- including five or more four times.
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.
Through 21 matches in 2018, Nelson ranks second on the team with 72 total blocks (six solo, 66 assisted; 0.90 per set) and third with 172 kills (2.15 per set). She has tallied five or more total blocks six times this season and has posted double-digit kills eight times.
Miller ranked third on the team with 49 total blocks (10 solo, 39 assisted; 0.98 per set) in 2016.
Through 21 matches in 2018, Miller leads Ohio with a career-high 80 total blocks (five solo, 75 assisted; 1.31 per set). She enters the weekend ranked fifth among MAC players in total blocks and first among MAC players and 32nd in the country in blocks per set. She has record five or more total blocks seven times this year.
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.
Through 21 matches in 2018, Reihing leads the team with 366 digs (4.57 per set). She has tallied double-digit digs on 16 occasions -- including 20 or more eight times and 30 or more once.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: WESTERN MICHIGAN
Ohio is 22-31 (.415) all-time against Western Michigan. The Bobcats and the Broncos last met on Oct. 21, 2017, in Kalamazoo, Mich., with Western Michigan earning a 3-1 (14-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-19) win over Ohio. Jimerson hit a team-best .522 with a team-high 18 kills for Ohio. Western Michigan last visited Athens on Oct. 22, 2016, a match in which the Bobcats swept the Broncos, 3-0 (25-9, 25-23, 25-23).
Western Michigan was picked to finish second in the West Division in the MAC's preseason poll with 59 points and earned two first-place votes. The Broncos earned two votes to win the MAC tournament in 2018. Western Michigan is led by 14th-year head coach Colleen Munson. Last weekend, the Broncos suffered a 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-22) loss to Buffalo on Friday but bounced back with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-21) sweep of Akron the following day. Ohio and Western Michigan are currently tied for eighth overall in the MAC standings with eight conference matches left to play in the regular season. The top eight teams in the league will qualify for the 2018 MAC tournament field.
Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Bontrager leads Western Michigan with 338 kills (4.07 per set). Senior setter Mary Murphy has dished out a team-high 788 assists (9.97 per set). Junior defensive specialist/libero Kathleen Reilly has tallied a team-high 20 service aces (0.24 per set) and also leads the team with 384 digs (4.63 per set). Redshirt freshman middle blocker Janell Williams has recorded a team-high 54 total blocks (six solo, 48 assisted; 0.84 per set).
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION: NORTHERN ILLINOIS
The Bobcats hold a 19-18 (.514) edge in the all-time series with Northern Illinois. Ohio last faced off with the Huskies on Oct. 20, 2017, in DeKalb, Ill., with the Bobcats prevailing, 3-1 (25-18, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20). Stephens paced the Bobcats with a match-high 20 kills and hit .333. The two teams last met in Athens on Oct. 21, 2016, with Northern Illinois edging Ohio, 3-2 (25-20, 25-23, 18-25, 17-25, 15-9).
Northern Illinois is guided by 17th-year head coach Ray Gooden. The Huskies were picked to finish fifth in the West Division in the MAC's preseason poll with 29 points. Northern Illinois split a pair of home matches against East Division foes last weekend, sweeping Akron last Friday, 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-23), but dropping a 3-2 (19-25, 25-13, 21-25, 25-12, 17-15) decision to Buffalo the following day.
Senior middle blocker Meg Wolowicz leads the Huskies with 348 kills (4.14 per set). Freshman setter Grace Balensiefer has distributed a team-high 632 assists (7.44 per set). Sophomore defensive specialist/libero Miranda Karlen leads Northern Illinois with 27 service aces (0.32 per set) as well as 431 digs (5.07 per set). Freshman middle blocker Jasmine Kemp has notched a team-high 65 total blocks (seven solo, 58 assisted; 0.88 per set) while redshirt senior middle blocker Chrystal McAlpin is close behind her with 61 (three solo, 58 assisted; 0.94 per set).
Before visiting the Bobcats on Saturday, Northern Illinois will visits MAC East Division foe Kent State in a 6 p.m. matchup at the M.A.C. Center.
Ohio visits MAC East Division rival Kent State next Thursday (Oct. 25) for a 7 p.m. match at the M.A.C. Center, then returns to the Convo on Saturday (Oct. 27) for a 6 p.m. match against MAC West Division foe Eastern Michigan.