Box Score (PDF)
OXFORD, Ohio -- The No. 7-seeded Ohio volleyball team (13-17) swept No. 6-seeded Northern Illinois (11-21), 3-0 (25-15, 25-14, 32-30), in the 2018 Mid-American Conference Championship First Round tonight at Millett Hall.
The Bobcats advance to take on No. 3-seeded Ball State (21-8) in a 2018 MAC Championship Quarterfinal matchup on Friday (Nov. 16) at 7 p.m. at Millett Hall.
Ohio hit .283 as a team while limiting Northern Illinois to a .068 hitting percentage. The Bobcats outblocked the Huskies, 11-6.
Senior right side hitter Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio) hit a career-best .667 with 14 kills. She has totaled double-digit kills in five of the last seven matches -- including three straight. Sophomore middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) hit at a .375 clip with 12 kills. The 2018 All-MAC First Team selection also tied for the match lead with five total blocks (two solo, three assisted), tallying five or more total blocks for the fifth time this year. Redshirt senior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) achieved her eighth double-double of the season with 11 kills and 10 digs. She also contributed three total blocks (one solo, two assisted). Junior outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas) just missed out on a double-double with nine kills and a match-high 17 digs to set a new season high. She also tied junior libero/defensive specialist Meredith Howe (Grand Rapids, Mich.) for the team lead with two service aces. Redshirt junior middle blocker Simone Miller (Kalamazoo, Mich.) tied Jimerson for the match lead with five total blocks (one solo, four assisted) and chipped in three kills. Sophomore setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) led the match with 46 assists and just missed a double-double with eight digs. The 2018 All-MAC First Team selection has posted at least 40 assists in 12 of the last 17 matches -- including three straight. Sophomore libero/defensive specialist Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.) recorded 13 digs, giving her 1,000 for her career.
"I thought we performed well today," said fifth-year head coach Deane Webb. "We've been really improving in the last few weeks. Steph's been really good in the last few weeks. We've definitely seen this coming from her. We thought, just as we watched the video from last time we played, that Steph could have a big night tonight. I didn't dream it was going to be 14 kills on 18 attempts. You don't ever ask that out of any player. But, she was exceptional tonight."
Ohio avenged a tough 3-2 (25-23, 25-27, 17-25, 32-30, 15-7) loss to Northern Illinois in the regular season with Thursday's postseason victory.
The Bobcats set the tone for the victory by jumping out to a 6-0 lead in the opening set, with Kosiorek posting two kills, Jimerson adding another, Howe recording a service ace and Jimerson and Kosiorek teaming up for a double block. Ohio never gave up the lead and hit a match-best .333 with 14 kills while holding the Huskies to a .051 hitting percentage. Kosiorek led the Bobcats with five kills in the opening set while Miller tallied three assisted blocks.
Ohio continued to attack and led the way the entire second set. The Bobcats logged 17 kills off of a .289 hitting percentage. Conversely, Northern Illinois recorded a -.107 attack percentage in the second set. Olman hit .600 with four kills while Jimerson tallied five kills off of a .500 hitting percentage in the second-set win.
Northern Illinois did not go quietly, though, and kept the score tight throughout the third set. Ohio broke away by breaking a 15-all tie with a 9-5 spurt that saw Jimerson tally three kills and Kosiorek add two more, giving the Bobcats match point at 24-20. The Huskies made things interesting by rattling off five-straight to put themselves in position to force a fourth set. Olman kept Ohio's hopes of a sweep alive with a kill and sparking a stretch in which the two teams traded points until back-to-back kills by Kosiorek and Stephens put the Bobcats back in front, 29-28. A pair of attack errors by Ohio extended the set to a 30-all tie, but Ohio finally put Northern Illinois away with back-to-back kills by Stephens and Olman.
"I think my teammates giving good passes and good sets gave me good looks," said Olman of her big performance. "My other teammates, pulling the blocks when I had almost a single block every time, I wasn't too mad about that."
Sophomore outside hitter Jori Radtke led Northern Illinois with six kills. Junior middle blocker/right side hitter Brinley Milbrath added five kills and matched redshirt senior middle blocker Chrystal McAlpin for the team lead with four assisted blocks. Freshman setter Grace Balensiefer distributed a team-high 20 assists. Sophomore defensive specialist/libero Miranda Karlen compiled a team-high 16 digs while junior setter Amanda Krahl added 10.
With the win over Northern Illinois, Ohio improved to 36-8 (.814) all-time in the league tournament -- including 5-3 under Webb.
Ohio will be looking avenge a 3-1 (25-20, 28-26, 20-25, 25-18) setback to Ball State on Oct. 12 in Muncie, Ind., when the Bobcats take on the Cardinals on Friday in the quarterfinals. The contest in October was the lone regular season meeting between the two squads. Ohio is 5-0 all-time against Ball State in the conference tournament. The Bobcats and the Cardinals last met in the postseason in the 2012 quarterfinals, with Ohio earning a 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-15) victory. Ohio and Ball State faced off in the league quarterfinals three times between 2008-12, with the Bobcats taking a 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-18) win in '08 and a 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-18) triumph in '09 in addition to the sweep in '12.
Friday's match will be streamed live on ESPN+, with Randy Hollowell and Lisa Dankovich on the call. 'The Voice of Ohio Volleyball' Jake Hromada will also have the call on OhioBobcats.com via StretchInternet's GameCentral. Fans can also follow the match via live stats.
The winner of Friday's match will take on No. 2-seeded Miami (21-7) on Saturday (Nov. 17) at 7 p.m. in a 2018 MAC Championship Semifinal showdown. The Bobcats are looking to advance to the league semis for the 17th year in a row.