With four seniors leaving, coach Neil Macmillan is progressing his team through the spring, trying to answer the question of how to fill their voids.
Seniors Katherine Ballard, Paige Herr, Courtney Seiders and Brittany Zorn will all graduate after this year, and Macmillan is using the spring to transition the team.
Spring practices have been filled with a focus on the players’ specific skills, Macmillan said. The players are trying to clean up little mistakes they make and adapt to a different style of play that Macmillan is implementing.
“We spend a lot of time working on individual skills, whether it be dribbling skills or receiving, passing, scoring,” Macmillan said. “With goalkeepers involved, there is a lot of technique. We try to improve on the individual components.”
The players work through drills and exercises to improve on their abilities so that when the team does come together, the Bobcats can play at a faster pace. The speed of the game is what Macmillan has centered on during practices and the exhibition games they have played.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is play a little bit quicker, and that’s something we want to do next year,” Macmillan said. “We’ve adapted to that style of play and been able to execute it and keep the tempo high when we play.”
While the rhythm of Ohio’s game has improved, the team possession is still lacking, however. The more focus on the skill, the better possession-based team the Bobcats will be, Macmillan said.
“A weakness is our receiving skills, the ability to possess and control the ball. We’re doing a little on that this week for practice,” Macmillan said. “Another thing is our experience; we are only about two weeks in, whereas a lot of these schools are two weeks away from finishing their spring.”
Ohio played short scrimmages of 25 minutes against competitive opponents during the weekend of April 9 and 10. The team played Indiana, Missouri, St. Louis, Michigan State, Louisville, Iowa and finally Miami.
“They were enthusiastic to play, they were energetic and showed a lot of character and fight,” Macmillan said. “We usually go into these spring games with no concern about the result, but we put a little pressure on the team to go after the game more and be aware of the score.”
The Bobcats came out strong in one of the few opportunities they have been fortunate enough to have in playing other teams around the country. The spring has offered the chance for the scoreboard to be irrelevant, but the team remained conscious of the importance of the exhibition games.
“We were a little bit more competitive than we have been in the past, and that is something that is going to serve us better as we move forward,” Macmillan said.
Macmillan looks at the players he has at his disposal and determines how he can use them each to their full advantage in the tournament, he said.
“The preparation for a tournament is more on who is going to play where, the formations and the tactics that we employ,” Macmillan said. “We know that we’re going to play everyone, but it’s a matter of who goes in when and playing different positions.”
Much of the practices focus on the skill of the players, but it is also centers on who can play well together and how the team best fits together, Macmillan said.
The players are all adjusting to the absent seniors and have worked hard to prepare for the fall.
“We’ve got a group of very competitive players. They all have the fire in them, but it’s just a case of bringing it out,” Macmillan said.