The soccer team has not forgotten a 1-0 loss to Toledo on Oct. 31 in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, especially as they transition into spring and are ready to enter a new season.
Ohio spent the offseason in winter training, as coach Stacy Strauss emphasized physical fitness and improvement during the break.
“We really focused on conditioning, strength training, speed building, agility and a lot of physical components,” Strauss said. “Through individual and small group training we focused on positional and technical things.”
The Bobcats are carrying over the specific goals they had from the fall season of ensuring shut outs, winning 50/50 balls and having a strong offense. The Bobcats struggled at times during the fall to produce goals, which Strauss pinpointed as a weakness.
“The goal we failed to consistently meet in the fall was our finishing, specifically having a higher percentage of shots on frame,” Strauss said. “That goal is something we’re emphasizing on this spring, and I thought with our exhibition games this past weekend, we took a step in the right direction.”
The past weekend of April 2-3, the Bobcats played in three exhibition games: a 0-0 tie to Butler, a 1-1 tie to a Canadian club team and a 2-0 win against Kent State.
Ohio returns to action this weekend for two exhibition games Sunday, facing off against Wright State and Marshall.
It is a rare opportunity when winning a match isn’t important, but for the volleyball team, growth triumphs over the wins and losses during the spring.
“Winning is completely irrelevant to me during this time of year,” coach Ryan Theis said. “It’s really about player improvement, and our plan is to make each player better so that they are ready for next fall.”
The break is used to focus on improving the volleyball IQ of his players, making them all-around players, and the break offers a time to have the learning phase to improve on those things, Theis said.
For Theis, the goal at the end of the six-week training period is that he feels comfortable with the team he will put on the court next fall. During the offseason, Theis said the team showed tremendous progress, particularly Katie Post, Nicole Staverman and Lexie Hartnett.
“Katie Post has become a dual-threat in playing in two different positions and that has been coming up in pretty good performances in the first week.” Theis said. “Nicole Staverman has been doing the little things really well, and Lexie Hartnett has improved.”
The Bobcats will step onto the court for the first time this weekend for a tournament in Blacksburg, Virginia where they will face Charlotte, Duke and Virginia Tech.
The balance of school and sport for athletes can often be extremely difficult. But for the Bobcats, who had six players receive the National Field Hockey Coaches Association academic award in 2010, the team’s level of dedication is at its highest.
Ohio has taken the offseason as a time to improve, and Coach Neil Macmillan said there is a focus for the team on the skill of the players.
“During the winter, we’ve been doing a little bit more of individual skill, we have smaller groups working on the basics and more games,” Macmillan said. “This quarter we’re going to be out practicing on the turf and having the full field getting prepared for the coming season.”
The leaders who have begun to emerge are in the sophomore and junior classes. They have stepped into the leadership role that the seniors will be leaving behind. The sophomore class has a lot of energy in particular, Macmillan said.
The improvement during the time off for the Bobcats has served the team well, as the freshman class in particular has shown the most improvement and development during the break between seasons. The organization and focus of the team can be acquitted to the academic mentality that Macmillan has with his players.
“I preach an academics-first mentality, and you have to have your academics and homework in order before you come to practice. If you don’t, your mind will be other places and not on what you need to be doing on the field,” Macmillan said.
Ohio will play against Indiana and Missouri this coming weekend and have the first chance to see the team in a full field game.