By Mike Ashcraft
ATHENS, Ohio -- Preseason training is over. It's go time for Ohio volleyball.
The Bobcats begin the 2017 regular season this weekend in Birmingham, Ala., at the Courtyard By Marriott Invitational at Pete Hanna Center. Ohio opens the new year with an 11 a.m. ET matchup against Murray State on Friday (Aug. 25) and will then take on host Samford at 8 p.m. ET that evening in a match that will be streamed on the SoCon Digital Network. The Bobcats wrap up the opening weekend of play Saturday (Aug. 26), squaring off against Southeastern Louisiana at 2 p.m. ET.
"We're ready to go," said senior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio). "I'm super confident in this year's team. I think we all are. We have a lot of potential that we can live up to."
A LOOK BACK AT 2016
Ohio won 16 matches overall and 11 in Mid-American Conference play in 2016. Ohio advanced to the conference tournament semifinal for the 15th year in a row.
BOBCATS PICKED SECOND IN MAC EAST IN CONFERENCE'S PRESEASON POLL
The Bobcats were picked to finish in second place in the East Division in the 2017 MAC Preseason Coaches' Poll, as voted on by the conference's head coaches, the league office announced on Tuesday (Aug. 22).
The Bobcats picked up one first-place vote and finished with 58 points. Ohio also garnered one vote to win the 2017 MAC tournament title. Click here for more.
KOSIOREK, LAKE NAMED TO 2017 PRESEASON ALL-MAC EAST DIVISION TEAM
Kosiorek and redshirt senior middle blocker Ali Lake (Liberty Township, Ohio) represented Ohio on the 2017 Preseason All-MAC East Division Team.
Kosiorek garnered All-MAC Honorable Mention in 2016 after leading the team with 31 service aces (0.28 per set) and ranking second with a career-high 360 kills (3.21 per set). Her 991 kills rank ninth in the rally scoring era in program history while her 115 service aces are tied for ninth overall in program history and tied for third in the rally scoring era. Lake is back after earning First Team All-MAC honors last year. She ranked third on the team with a career-high 293 kills (2.69 per set) and also ranked second with 50 total blocks (six solo, 44 assisted; 0.46 per set).
OHIO NAMES TEAM CAPTAINS
Kosiorek and redshirt junior middle blocker Katie Nelson (Regina, Saskatchewan) have been named Ohio's 2017 team captains, as announced by fourth-year head coach Deane Webb on Wednesday (Aug. 23). Click here for more.
HOWE NAMED ACADEMIC CAPTAIN
Sophomore libero Meredith Howe (Grand Rapids, Mich.) has been named the Ohio volleyball program's second-ever academic captain, as announced by fourth-year head coach Deane Webb on Wednesday (Aug. 23).
Howe, who is a nursing major, earned both Fall and Spring Athletics Director Honor Roll selection and both Fall and Spring Dean's List honors as a freshman in 2016-17. She succeeds former Bobcat libero Brooke Coleman, who served as the program's first academic captain the last two seasons. Click here for more.
WELCOME TO ATHENS
Ohio welcomes four freshmen for 2017 -- middle blocker Dahlias Bouyer (Brownstown, Mich.),setter Vera Giacomazzi(San Vendemiano, Italy), middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) and libero Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.). The class received High Honorable Mention from PrepVolleyball.com.
BOBCATS TOP WHEELING JESUIT IN EXHIBITION MATCH
Ohio won all four sets (25-11, 25-12, 25-23, 25-11) over Wheeling Jesuit in an exhibition match that unofficially kicked off the new season last Thursday (Aug. 17) at the Convocation Center.
The Bobcats posted a .349 hitting percentage (61 kills-16-errors-129 total attacks), with three players posting double-digit kills. Ohio was exceptional from the service line, totaling 13 service aces.
Kosiorek matched Jimerson for the match lead with 14 kills and compiled a match-high five service aces. She also chipped in an assisted block and five digs. Jimerson tallied four assisted blocks and also recorded a dig. Lake posted four total blocks (one solo, three assisted) and also pitched in seven kills. Sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Frisco, Texas) added 11 kills, two service aces, an assist and five digs. Giacomazzi led the match with 36 assists and also contributed a service ace and five digs while junior Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio) totaled 21 assists, two kills and an assisted block. Howe led the match with 15 digs while Reihing posted 10 digs and two service aces.
THE DEANE OF OHIO VOLLEYBALL
Deane Webb enters his fourth season as head coach of the Bobcats in 2017. Ohio has gone 64-28 (.696) in three seasons under the direction of Webb -- including 40-8 in the MAC play. The Bobcats won a MAC regular season title with a perfect 16-0 league year in 2014, then captured the conference tournament title in 2015.
SCOUTING THE COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT INVITATIONAL FIELD
Murray State went 23-9 last year and won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament before falling to No. 10-ranked UCLA, 3-1, in an NCAA Championship First Round matchup. The Racers are guided by 20th-year head coach Dave Schwepker, who is the winningest coach in the program's history and has guided Murray State to three-straight OVC titles. Murray State was picked to place fourth in the league's preseason poll. Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Giustino tallied 215 kills (2.62 per set) last year to rank third on the team. Redshirt junior middle blocker Dacia Brown compiled a team-high 61 total blocks (16 solo, 45 assisted; 0.52 per set) a season ago. Ohio is 2-0 all-time against Murray State. The programs last met on Sept. 10, 1999 -- a 3-0 sweep for the Bobcats at the Bromley Invitational in Athens.
Samford finished 21-14 en route to capturing the Southern Conference tournament crown last season. The Bulldogs saw their season end with a 3-0 loss to No. 4-ranked Kansas in the NCAA Championship First Round. Samford is led by second-year head coach Keylor Chan, who spent 15 years as the head coach at Northwestern. Sophomore outside hitter Kelsi Hobbs tallied 139 kills (2.14 per set) to rank fifth on the team last year. The Bulldogs were tabbed to take third in the SoCon's preseason poll. Sophomore defensive specialist/libero Grace Tiesman led the Bulldogs with 487 digs (3.83 per set) a year ago. Ohio and Samford have never faced each other before.
Southeastern Louisiana went 7-23 last season. The Lady Lions are led by fourth-year head coach Jim Smoot. Sophomore outside hitter Chloee Holden is back after leading Southeastern Louisiana with 248 kills (2.16 per set) in 2016. Junior setter Haley Baker distributed a team-high 656 assists (5.51 per set) last year. Redshirt sophomore right side Elyssa Purcell led the team with 31 service aces (0.30 per set) and ranked third on the squad with 187 kills (1.78 per set). Sophomore middle blocker Savannah Alcazar compiled a team-high 64 total blocks (four solo, 60 assisted; 0.56 per set). The Bobcats and Lady Lions have never squared off before.
Ohio makes the drive west to take on-state rival Dayton next Tuesday (Aug. 29). The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET at the Thomas J. Frericks Athletic and Convocation Center.