OXFORD — Deane Webb wanted a challenge.
The ball, which was called out of bounds off an attack, landed near the line. Webb thought it was in, which would give Ohio a 4-2 advantage in the third set. Instead, the call on the court was upheld, giving Miami the point and equalizing the set at three.
The call was a miniscule detail in the match, but it seemed to be a microcosm of how it played out. When Ohio thought a play or rally would go its way, it wound up in Miami’s favor. The Bobcats were swept by the RedHawks (25-21, 25-21, 25-23) in the Mid-American Conference Semifinal in Millett Hall on Saturday.
“We just had a hard time scoring our own points,” Webb said.
Struggling to score their own points was a bad sign for the Bobcats. Miami helped Ohio by tallying 21 attacking errors, an advantage for Ohio. But the Bobcats had 23 of their own attacking errors to neutralize that advantage.
Ohio had a 5-1 lead early in the second set, but the RedHawks rallied from and tied the set at seven before taking the lead. The third set seemed to be on its way to start in similar fashion — the Bobcats had a 3-2 lead. And if the challenge would have gone Webb’s way, they would’ve lead 4-2. Instead, the call was confirmed at the video monitor.
Although swept, Ohio outplayed Miami in multiple facets of the match. The Bobcats won at the service line, tallying five aces. Miami had none. Ohio also had 11 blocks, which was only the eighth time with double digit blocks this season. Miami only had nine. But those stats aren’t what mattered. The final score was what mattered.
“We did a pretty good job serving and blocking,” Webb said. “Again, just offensively, we needed more production.”
In what turned out to be an improbable run, the Bobcats earned the No. 4 seed in the MAC Tournament despite being without their two captains for most of the season. Only one upperclassman was on the floor nearly the entire schedule. But the team battled through the adversity and earned a first round bye, then followed that up with a win over No. 8 Eastern Michigan in the quarterfinals.
The semifinal was a rubber match from the regular season. In Athens, the Bobcats won a thrilling five-set match over the RedHawks on Sept. 29. In Oxford on Nov. 4, however, the RedHawks earned revenge in a three-set sweep. The MAC Tournament match? More similar to the latter than the former.
But Saturday’s match, unlike the first sweep in Oxford, ended the season, and it’s never easy to address a team after. The pain-crushing end is a tough pill to swallow. But Webb knows he can breathe easy as the young team was within two matches of earning an NCAA Tournament bid, and the core of the team will return — only one member of this season’s team will graduate.
“I think it’s the first time in my career that I’ve gone into a locker room realizing that everyone that played in that match will play in another match,” Webb said.