By Mike Ashcraft
ATHENS, Ohio -- The Ohio volleyball team (13-13, 7-5 MAC) rides a two-match winning streak into a critical weekend that features the Mid-American Conference's top-two teams as the Bobcats visit East Division rival Bowling Green (14-9, 10-2 MAC) on Friday (Nov. 3) at 7 p.m. ET at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio, and 'Battle of the Bricks' archrival Miami (17-8, 9-3 MAC) on Saturday (Nov. 4) at 5 p.m. ET at Millett Hall in Oxford, Ohio. Friday's match between the Bobcats and the Falcons will be streamed live on ESPN3.
THE ROAD TO OXFORD
Ohio enters the seventh weekend of MAC play in third place in the standings at 7-5. The top eight squads in the league will qualify for the 2017 MAC Championship, which is set to be held Nov. 16-19 in Oxford, Ohio.
Ohio went 2-0 for the first time in a MAC weekend in 2017 after sweeping a pair of East Division rivals last weekend at the Convocation Center. The Bobcats earned a 3-0 (25-19, 25-13, 25-21) sweep of Akron last Friday (Oct. 27), then swept Buffalo, 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-22), on Saturday (Oct. 28). The Bobcats hit .290 with 40 kills in the win over Akron. Ohio earned its 15th-straight win over the Zips. The following day, the Bobcats dominated with a .310 hitting percentage with 49 kills while limiting the Bulls to a .198 hitting percentage with 36 kills. Ohio also served a match-high seven aces. The 53 digs by the Bobcats marked the team's third-most in a three-set match this year. Ohio snapped Buffalo's five-match winning streak with the win. The Bobcats improved to 38-3 (.927) all-time against the Bulls.
STEPHENS EARNS MAC EAST OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas) was named MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week, as announced by the league office on Monday (Oct. 30).
Stephens earned MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in her career. Her selection marked the third-straight week a Bobcat has been named MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week as freshman middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) garnered honors each of the past two weeks.
Jimerson is stating an early case to be the MAC Freshman of the Year. Through 26 matches in 2017, Jimerson leads Ohio with 76 total blocks (17 solo, 59 assisted; 0.75 per set) and ranks second on the squad and fourth in the MAC with 340 kills (3.37 per set). Her .359 hitting percentage is good for second-best in the conference. She also ranks sixth on the team with 111 digs (1.10 per set) and has compiled five service aces (0.05 per set) and four assists (0.04 per set). Jimerson has tallied double-digit kills 18 times -- including 11 of the last 12 matches. She has recorded nine matches in 2017 where she has hit .400 or better with double-digit kills.
VERA IS VERY GOOD
Through 26 matches in 2017, freshman setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) is making a compelling argument for being the league's top player at her position. She leads the MAC and ranks 10th in the country with 1,059 assists (10.59 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. She also ranks third on the team with 239 digs (2.39 per set) and 35 total blocks (one solo, 34 assisted; 0.35 per set) and is fifth with 16 service aces (0.16 per set). She has achieved 10 double-doubles to lead the team.
With senior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) going down with a torn ACL injury that ended her season, Stephens has assumed the role of being Ohio's primary attacker. Through 26 matches in 2017, Stephens currently leads the conference and ranks 29th in the nation with 378 kills (3.74 per set; fifth in the MAC). She also leads the league and ranks third in the country with 53 service aces (0.52 per set; first in the MAC, eighth in the country), which ranks as the second-most in a single season in the rally scoring era of the program's history. She has helped Ohio lead the conference and rank 22nd in the country with 149 total team service aces (1.48 per set; second in the conference, 50th in the country). Stephens has posted double-digit kills a team-high 21 times for Ohio in 2017 -- including in 14 of the last 16 matches. She is also second on the team with nine double-doubles. Stephens has already set career highs in kills, service aces, digs (252; 2.50 digs per set), total blocks (31, seven solo, 24 assisted; 0.31 total blocks per set) and assists (12; 0.12 assists per set).
OLMAN ON THE OUTSIDE
Junior Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio) has made the move from setter to outside hitter and has made an impact for the Bobcats at her new position. She ranks third on the team with a career-high 149 kills (1.80 per set) and tied for fourth with 31 total blocks (seven solo, 24 assisted; 0.37 per set). In Ohio's sweep of Ball State on Oct. 14, Olman hit a career-best .267 with 12 kills and matched her career high four assisted blocks. She has recorded double-digit kills in six of the last10 matches.
JANUSZEWSKI STEPPING UP
Sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Sara Januszewski (Oak Creek, Wis.) has seen plenty of action in Nelson's absence, ranking second on the team with a career-high 64 total blocks (eight solo, 56 assisted; 0.69 per set) and fourth with a career-high 140 kills (1.51 per set). She has tallied double-digit kills three times and five or more total blocks four times.
REMMERS REVVING IT UP
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Carley Remmers (Filley, Neb.) has started coming on strong after missing 10-straight matches due to various injuries. She has particularly helped Ohio's passing game, tallying double-digit digs seven times in the last 10 matches. She currently ranks fifth on the team with a career-high 129 digs (2.30 per set) and has set career highs with 75 kills (1.34 per set), 11 total blocks (three solo, eight assisted; 0.20 per set), 10 service aces (0.18 per set) and four assists (0.07 per set).
BOBCATS' RECRUITING CLASS RECEIVES HONORS
Ohio's 2017 recruiting received High Honorable Mention from PrepVolleyball.com.
Reihing also earned Defensive Dandy honors for the fourth year in a row from PrepVolleyball.com. She currently leads Ohio with 379 digs (3.95 per set) in 2017 and has tallied 20 or more digs in six of the last 10 matches -- including a career-high 27 in the sweep of Ball State.
THE DEANE OF OHIO VOLLEYBALL
Deane Webb is in his fourth year as the head coach of the Ohio volleyball program in 2017. The Bobcats have gone 77-41 (.653) in three-plus seasons under the direction of Webb -- including 47-13 (.783) 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.
Webb owns an overall career coaching record of 447-257 (.635) over 20-plus seasons -- including 313-206 (.603) over 16-plus seasons at the NCAA Division I level.
SCOUTING BOWLING GREEN
Ohio suffered a 3-1 (17-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-22) loss to Bowling Green on Sept. 30 at the Convo in the first regular season meeting of the 2017 season between the two squads. The Bobcats were hampered by 27 attack errors, eight service errors and seven reception errors in the loss to the Falcons. Bowling Green came out on top in four sets despite hitting just .170. Jimerson hit .395 with 18 kills to tie for the match lead. She added 14 digs to post her second-straight double-double. She also logged a team-high three assisted blocks, a service ace and an assist. Stephens matched Jimerson for the match lead with 18 kills and also achieved a double-double by with 20 digs. She also led Ohio with two service aces and added an assist. Olman totaled a career-high 16 kills and hit at a .208 pace. She also chipped in an assisted block and two digs. Giacomazzi dished out a match-high 58 assists, marking the fourth time she has tallied 50 or more assists. She also recorded a kill, two assisted blocks and a service ace and achieved her fifth career double-double and second in a row with a career-high 21 digs. Reihing finished with a team-high 25 digs and also had five assists. Remmers notched a career-high 16 digs to go along with a kill, a service ace and an assist.
Bowling Green was led by a 16-kill effort by senior outside hitter Nicole Slimko, who hit .302 for the match. She also tied for the team lead with four total blocks (one solo, three assisted) and pitched in a dig. Freshman outside hitter Jacqueline Askin also finished with double-digit kills for the Falcons, tallying 10. She also had three digs. Freshman middle blocker Katie Kidwell totaled seven kills and tied for the match lead with four assisted blocks. She hit at a .286 rate. Sophomore defensive specialist Paulina Iacobelli led the match with five service aces to go along with 18 digs and two assists. Sophomore setter Isabelle Marciniak achieved a double-double with a team-high 42 assists to go with 13 digs. She also had four kills. Freshman middle blocker Katie Seimet piled up a match-high 29 digs and also added two assists. Sophomore defensive specialist Victoria Iacobelli also finished with double-digit digs, totaling 14 to go along with a service ace and an assist.
The Bobcats own a 36-31 (.537) edge in the all-time series with Bowling Green. Ohio's last trip to the Stroh Center resulted in a 3-0 (25-19, 28-26, 28-26) sweep on Sept. 30, 2016.
Danijela Tomic has served as the head coach of the Falcons for the last six years. Bowling Green has won seven of its last eight matches since beating Ohio -- including a 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-21) win over Miami on Oct. 26 at the Stroh Center and a 3-1 (25-20, 25-19, 24-26, 25-16) victory over Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Mich., two days later. Seimet was named MAC East Division Defensive Player of the Week for her efforts last week.
The Falcons are one of the MAC's best passing teams, ranking third in the league and 19th in the country with 1,701 total team digs (18.90 per set; first in the conference, fourth in the nation). Bowling Green also ranks second among conference teams with 210.5 total teams blocks (34 solo, 353 assisted; 2.34 per set, second in the MAC). The Falcons also boast five players with over 150 kills. Slimko leads the team with 204 kills (2.58 per set). Junior middle blocker Madeline Brandewie ranks second on the team with 185 kills (2.06 per set) and is also second with 79 total blocks (10 solo, 69 assisted; 0.88 per set) and 20 service aces (0.22 per set). Sophomore middle blocker/right side hitter Celena Kanagin is third on the squad with 179 kills (2.18 per set) and third with 52 total blocks (one solo, 51 assisted; 0.63 per set). Askin is fourth on the squad with 167 kills (2.32 per set). Kidwell leads the Falcons and ranks second in the MAC with 111 total blocks (nine solo, 102 assisted; 1.25 per set, first in the MAC). Paulina Iacobelli leads the Falcons with 29 service aces (0.37 per set). Marciniak has distributed a team-high 905 assists (10.06 per set) -- good for fourth in the league. Seimet is statistically one of the best passers in the country, ranking second 619 total digs and leading the nation with 6.88 digs per set.
Ohio emerged victorious over archrival Miami, 3-2 (21-25, 25-22, 25-16, 17-25, 15-13), in the first 'Battle of the Bricks' matchup of the 2017 season between the two programs on Sept. 29 at the Convocation Center. The Bobcats snapped a three-match losing skid in the series with the RedHawks. Ohio improved to 3-1 in five-set matches in 2017. Ohio dominated from the service line, posting 10 service aces against just three by Miami. The Bobcats outblocked the RedHawks, 11-8. Jimerson led the way for the Bobcats with her first career double-double, posting a team-high 14 kills to go along with 10 digs. She also led the match with six total blocks (two solo, four assisted). Stephens also achieved a double-double for Ohio with 13 kills and 11 digs -- her team-high sixth double-double of the season. She also contributed two service aces and an assisted block. Olman logged a career-high 11 kills to go along with two assisted blocks and two digs. Januszewski tallied eight kills, four total blocks (one solo, three assisted), two service aces and a career-high eight digs. Sophomore outside hitter/libero Allyson Vaughn (Glenview, Ill.) led the match with a career-high three service aces and also had four digs. Giacomazzi led the match with 46 kills and achieved her fourth career double-double with 19 digs. She also totaled a kill and a career-high four assisted blocks. Reihing notched a match-high 26 digs to lead the match and set a new career high and also finished with a career-high two service aces. After missing 10-straight matches due to an injury, Remmers returned for Ohio and produced 12 digs and an assist.
Senior outside hitter/right side hitter Katie Tomasic hit .244 for Miami and led the match with 15 kills. She also had a team-high four total blocks (two solo, two assisted) and pitched in a service ace and six digs. senior outside hitter Olivia Rusek finished with 13 kills and hit .238. She recorded a double-double with 16 digs and also added two solo blocks, a service ace and three assists. Sophomore right side hitter/middle hitter Margaret Payne hit .258 with 12 kills and notched two assisted blocks and four digs. Freshman setter Morgan Seaman distributed a team-high 40 assists and also logged two kills and nine digs. Senior libero Maeve McDonald led Miami with 21 digs and also had three assists. Junior outside hitter/right side hitter Stela Kukoc finished the match with 13 digs and also posted two kills, a service ace and a solo block.
Ohio trails in the all-time series with Miami, 39-32 (.549). The Bobcats were swept by the RedHawks, 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-18), in their last trip to Millett Hall on Sept. 29, 2016.
The RedHawks are in their 34th season under the direction of head coach Carolyn Condit. Since losing to the Bobcats in five sets, Miami has gone 8-1 -- including a 1-1 mark last weekend. After falling to Bowling Green in three sets last Thursday, Miami earned a 3-0 (25-15, 27-25, 25-18) sweep of Northern Illinois two days later in DeKalb, Ill.
The RedHawks are one of the top passing teams in the country, averaging 18.28 digs per set, which is good for third in the conference and 10th in the nation. Miami owns the 11th-most total team digs in the country with 1,791. Miami is also second in the MAC with 13.62 kills per set, which is good for 63rd in the country. The RedHawks have logged 1,335 total team kills, which ranks second in the MAC and 18th in the nation. Miami's 1,219 total team assists rank second in the conference and 32nd in the nation (12.44 assists per set; first in the MAC, 92nd in the country). Miami has five players on its roster with over 150 kills so far in 2017. Tomasic leads the way with 262 kills (2.67 per set) and is tied for second on the team with 58 total blocks (11 solo, 47 assisted; 0.59 per set). Payne ranks second on the squad with 255 kills (2.63 per set) and has a team-high 63 total blocks (10 solo, 53 assisted; 0.65 per set). Rusek has tallied 220 kills (2.42 per set). Kukoc ranks fourth on the team with 173 kills (2.11 per set) and is tied for second on the squad with 15 service aces (0.18 per set). Seaman has piled up a team-high 18 service aces (0.18 per set) and 615 assists (6.28 per set). Redshirt junior setter Mackenzie Zielinski is second on the team with 474 assists (6.58 per set). McDonald is third in the MAC and 13th in the country with a team-high 534 digs (5.45 per set; fourth in the MAC, 18th in the country).
Miami will welcome MAC East Division rival Kent State to Millett Hall on Friday in a 7 p.m. ET contest before playing host to Ohio on Saturday.
Ohio closes out the 2017 regular season with a pair of home matches at the Convo next weekend. The Bobcats take on MAC East Division rival Kent State next Thursday (Nov. 9) before playing host to MAC West Division foe Central Michigan on Senior Night on Saturday (Nov. 11). Both matches are set to begin at 7 p.m. ET. Ohio will honor the career of redshirt senior middle blocker Ali Lake (Liberty Township, Ohio) prior to Saturday's match against the Chippewas.