By Mike Ashcraft
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio volleyball team (9-11, 3-3 MAC) returns to the Convocation Center to host a pair of Mid-American Conference West Division foes this weekend, welcoming Toledo (8-10, 3-3 MAC) on Friday (Oct. 13) and Ball State (12-7, 4-2 MAC) on Saturday (Oct. 14). Both matches are set to get underway at 7 p.m. ET. Friday's match will have a live audio stream on StretchInternet's GameCentral while Saturday's contest will be streamed live on ESPN3. 'Voice of Ohio volleyball' Jake Hromada and Gabe Genovesi will be on the call.
Saturday's match will serve as Ohio's 2017 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.
Ohio split a pair of five-set matches on the road last weekend. The Bobcats rallied from a 2-0 deficit but could not complete the comeback, falling to MAC East Division rival Kent State, 3-2 (25-18, 25-12, 17-25, 27-29, 15-12), last Thursday (Oct. 5) at the M.A.C. Center. Ohio bounced back on Saturday (Oct. 7), though, prevailing over MAC West Division foe Eastern Michigan, 3-2 (25-23, 24-26, 25-19, 27-29, 15-13), on Saturday (Oct. 7) at EMU's Convocation Center. The Bobcats improved to 4-2 in five-set matches in 2017 with the victory over the Eagles.
Ohio's roster has been depleted by injuries for much of the 2017 season, but one player's return to the lineup has provided the Bobcats with some welcome relief. Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Carley Remmers (Filley, Neb.) missed 10-straight matches due to several injuries but has played in each of the last four matches for Ohio, tallying 42 digs (2.33 per match) and helping to steady the Bobcats' passing.
The Bobcats are looking to stack some wins after splitting each of their first three weekends of conference play. Ohio is currently sixth in the overall MAC standings.
Ohio leads the all-time series with Toledo, 35-16 (.686). The Bobcats suffered a 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 22-25, 25-14) loss to the Rockets on Oct. 14, 2016, in Toledo in the last regular season meeting between the two squads. Ohio avenged the setback, though, with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-14, 25-23) sweep of Toledo in the second round of the 2016 MAC Championship on Nov. 18, 2016, at Victor E. Court in DeKalb, Ill. Toledo's last trip to the Convo saw the Bobcats post a 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 25-19, 25-10) win over the Rockets. Toledo is guided by Greg Smith, who has served as head coach of the Rockets since 2009. The Rockets split a pair of matches against MAC West Division rivals last weekend at Savage Arena. Toledo bounced back from a 3-1 (19-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-17) loss to Northern Illinois last Friday (Oct. 6) with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-21) triumph over Western Michigan the following day. The Rockets are one of the MAC's top blocking teams, ranking second in the conference and 66th in the nation with 160 total team bocks (2.16 per set). Toledo also ranks fourth in the league and 47th in the country with total team 1,198 digs (16.19 per set; 61st in the country) and fifth in the MAC and 70th in the country with 102 total team service aces (1.38 per set). Senior outside hitter Saige Thomas leads Toledo with 202 kills (2.85 per set) and is one of five Rockets with over 100 kills. Senior middle hitter Rachel Vidourek is second on the squad with 164 kills (2.22 per set) and ranks second among conference players with a .339 hitting percentage. She is also second on the team with 64 total blocks (14 solo, 50 assisted; 0.86 per set). Senior middle hitter/outside hitter Annie Beasley is third on Toledo's roster with 154 kills (2.08 per set) and leads the Rockets with 74 total blocks (13 solo, 61 assisted; 1.00 per set, fifth in the MAC). Beasley is the reigning MAC West Division Defensive Player of the Week after leading Toledo with 24 kills (3.80 per set) and 17 total blocks (2.12 per set) last weekend. Freshman outside hitter Emma Swope is fourth on the team with 131 kills (1.98 per set) while freshman outside hitter/middle hitter Chloee Kleespies ranks fifth with 113 (2.22 per set). Freshman defensive specialist/setter Rhyen Neal is tied for fifth in the MAC with a team-high 24 service aces (0.33 per set) and ranks third on the team with 144 digs (1.97 per set). Senior defensive specialist/setter Brianna Foster leads Toledo with 453 assists (7.08 per set) and ranks fourth on the team with 134 digs (2.09 per set). Junior setter/right side hitter Carly Townsend is second on the squad with 312 assists (9.18 per set). Junior libero/defensive specialist Maurissa Leonard is third in the MAC and 25th in the country with 372 digs (5.03 per set; 38th in the country) while senior libero/defensive specialist Lauren Bakaitis is second on the squad with 149 digs (2.07 per set).
Ohio trails Ball State in the all-time series, 34-18 (.654). The Bobcats pulled off a dramatic 3-2 (25-11, 16-25, 20-25, 32-30, 15-11) win over the Cardinals in the last meeting between the two teams on Oct. 15, 2016, at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind. In the last meeting between Ohio and Ball State at the Convo on Oct. 16, 2015, the Bobcats came away with a 3-2 (25-19, 23-25, 25-22, 21-25, 18-16) victory. Kelli Miller is in her second season as head coach of the Cardinals. Ball State split a pair of matches against MAC West Division rivals last weekend in Muncie. The Cardinals posted a 3-1 (25-20, 17-25, 25-15, 25-17) win over Western Michigan last Friday but suffered a 3-2 (23-25, 25-20, 19-25, 25-19, 15-13) setback to Northern Illinois the next day. Ball State owns the best hitting percentage among MAC teams with .220 clip. The Cardinals are fourth in the conference and 79th in the country in both total team kills (928; 12.89 per set) and total team assists (871; 12.10 per set). Ball State is also third in the league with 150 total team blocks (2.08 per set). Junior outside hitter/opposite hitter Brooklyn Goodsel leads Ball State with 206 kills (3.03 per set) and ranks third on the squad with 15 service aces (0.22 per set) and 172 digs (2.53 per set). Junior outside hitter Ellie Dunn is second on the squad with 189 kills (2.95 per set) and is third on the team with 38 total blocks (16 solo, 22 assisted; 0.59 per set). Junior middle hitter Emily Holland is third on the team with 151 kills (2.13 per set) and ranks second with 42 total blocks (three solo, 39 assisted; 0.59 per set). Redshirt junior Meg Starling leads the Cardinals with 64 total blocks (13 solo, 51 assisted; 1.00 per set) and ranks fourth on the squad with 112 kills (1.75 per set). Sophomore defensive specialist Kate Avila leads Ball State with 23 service aces (0.32 per set) and 300 digs (4.17 per set). Sophomore setter Amber Seaman has dished out a team-high 704 assists (10.67 per set) and ranks second on the squad with 22 service aces (0.33 per set) and 184 digs (2.79 per set). Junior defensive specialist Lauren Schreiner is fourth on the team with 142 digs (2.09 per set) while freshman defensive specialist Grace Nelson ranks fifth with 137 digs (2.11 per set). Before visiting Athens on Saturday, the Cardinals will play at Kent State on Friday at 7 p.m. ET at the M.A.C. Center.
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.