MatchPointOhio celebrates the Ohio University women's volleyball team. Over the past decade, the Bobcats have been one of the most successful and competitive teams in the nation. Some of the accolades that the team has earned include:
- Six MAC regular-season titles
- Seven MAC Tournament titles
- Eight consecutive trips to the NCAA Championship, tied for the MAC record.
- 29-10 (.744) postseason record, including MAC and NCAA Tournaments
- NCAA Regional Semifinalist in 2005, qualified for Second Round four times.
Cricket and I made the final trip of the spring to Indianapolis and the Academy Volleyball Club—a big industrial building just inside the Interstate ring that buzzed with whistles, shouts, hard-hit balls and a few moans, as eight teams tore it up on ten nets—all, I imagine, trying to figure out their lineups and tactics for the coming year.
We played four teams: IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, pronounced, I am told by past residents of Indiana, U-ee Poo-ee), Lipscomb (a Division 1, faith-based liberal arts university in Nashville), Purdue and Indiana State. Two sets apiece, and if I remember right we dropped two sets to Purdue, one to Indiana State, and won the rest. Not that anyone was keeping track. There are refs and linespeople at these spring tournaments, but no one keeping any official records.
What I dropped was my camcorder, luckily on the padded floor. Cricket stepped up with some clips from her video-capable Canon, so we have a pretty good record of the day: most shots, of course (save for some crushing blocks by Purdue), chosen to show how well our team was doing, and what a gorgeous sport this is.
The team had a good Saturday in Louisville, at this year’s Kiva Tournament. We played Xavier, Michigan State and Louisville, two sets apiece, and split each match, losing the first set and winning the second in every case.
The final set against Louisville was a thrill, as by then the team was completely in the groove.
Next up: the final action of the spring (today is the last day of practice for the team), in Indianapolis on Saturday.
It’s getting to be a ritual. At the end of the season I go back over clips from several matches and find examples of Coach Webb’s advice to Shelby Walker near the end of our match against Northern Illinois at the MAC Championships: “You run, you scream your head off, you make their middle park on you, then we score at both ends.”
Park on you? Something like that; you’ll hear it again in this video.d He means: You make their middle go up to block you. Maybe you get the set, maybe it goes out to Jaime or Mal or Ali on the outside, but either way we score.
It’s a Rubik’s cube, it’s a chess game that’s going on all the time at the net. During the match, it all flashes by so fast I barely see it. Here we slow things down to a meditative state, so we can follow exactly what happened.
This is it: the last video of 2015. Wish I could have gone to Provo to record the BYU match. Not that the NCAA lets people with camcorders roam around the gym, as I get to do at other matches. But as Ali’s mother said, “It was a thing of beauty to watch the girls scare the tar out of BYU!”
MatchpointOhio watched the match in a noisy bar, so we couldn’t hear the commentary. But BYUtv had great visual coverage, rivaling any network production, and we had a clear view of a very competitive match.
Extremely competitive. The stats, indeed, would almost give the match to us. We hit a stunning .571 in the opening set, to BYU’s .212. When have we ever, against even a team we crushed, hit at such a rate? And the statistic is a reflection of the first set, which was a thing of beauty. A flat-out defeat of a top-seeded team, earned the time-honored way: great passing, great setting, lots of killing and some crushing blocks. We played at our highest level, and BYU couldn’t handle it.
They took the next three sets, but two of them were two-point sets that might easily have gone the other way. (That’s how you talk when you ache, when you’d like to have another chance at a few of those points.)
Everyone has pointed it out already: we had 12 service errors, and no aces. BYU, in contrast, had only a single service error for the entire match, and six aces. This is one reason why we could outhit them for the match (.306 to .250), outblock them (14 total blocks to 10), make more assists, more kills and more digs—and still they won.
No one ran away with anything. There was lots of beautiful play on our part, Mer returned some unbelievable balls, Abby assassinated at a .500 percentage, Mal logged 21 kills (the same number as BYU’s star hitter, Alexa Gray), Jaime had 15, and it was 8, 7 and 4 for Karin, Ali and Shelby.
I hate to see the team lose. I always hate it. But I was soothed the whole way home, and late last night and early this morning, but how well they played. In the words of the great Jim Post, father of the great Katie Post, WE LOVE YOU BOBCATS!
What a weekend it was. After a rough patch, the coaching staff had made some changes in the lineup. Shelby came back to her home position of middle blocker and hitter, and Mal Salis, who has hit so well from the backcourt all season, now plays opposite Jaime Kosiorek at outside hitter. Brooke Coleman is in, playing steadily on defense, and the team has locked onto a great rhythm.
The passing was fabulous. Kent State couldn’t match it, nor could Northern Illinois: you could see their setters flying all over the court. We were clearly in a new and better groove against Kent State, and when Sunday’s finals came around, we essentially dominated Northern for all three sets.
Mal Salis! What can you say? Just look at her kills on the video below. She had 19 kills and hit .500 against Northern, tying the MAC record for the year for kills in a three-set match. I remember from her freshman year, when one of the assistant coaches said, “She’s the most athletic player on the team.” It’s pouring out now, and it’s a thrill to watch.