The Bobcats will begin their season far from Athens, as they'll play two ranked teams in Hawaii.
The road for Ohio and its pursuit of another NCAA Tournament berth begins this weekend far away from Athens, as the Bobcats have traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Chevron Wahine Rainbow Invitational will be a microcosm of Ohio's entire non-conference schedule as No. 17 Hawaii and No. 25 Arizona State are ranked in the preseason AVCA poll. San Diego State is the final team that rounds out the field as the sandwich for Ohio in the three-match tournament.
First up for the Bobcats will be the host Warriors, who are coming off a 20th consecutive conference championship.
Deane Webb will face off against coach Dave Shoji, who has cemented himself as a legend in the sport, in Webb's first go as coach of the Bobcats. Shoji is the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history amassing 1,128 victories during his 40 seasons at Hawaii.
It could be an intimidating atmosphere for Ohio’s first game of the season as more than 10,000 fans are expected to be in attendance. With environments like that throughout the season, Webb hopes it will prepare his team for the ultimate goal of advancing in the NCAA Tournament — something they haven’t done since 2010 when they lost to Duke in the second round.
“A number of our returning players are used to playing a number of top 25 teams,” Webb said. “I don’t think last year we had a weekend where we played multiple top 25 (teams) in the same weekend, so maybe what is different this year is prolonged focus at a high level.”
After playing their toughest test, the Bobcats have their most winnable game of the tournament against San Diego State, which was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West.
The Aztecs will be looking for an impact from their highly-touted recruiting class. The Bobcats hope their experienced roster will be enough to topple the talented, yet young Aztecs who have nine freshmen on the roster.
Ohio will also be battling jet lag as they by far have the longest trip of the year.
“We would be lying if we weren’t saying it wasn’t some concern,” Webb said. “On the other hand, you go out there and play in the Sheriff Center in front of however many fans, there’ll be enough adrenaline going around that I think we’ll be just fine.”
In their final tilt of the tournament, the Bobcats take on the Sun Devils, who are also looking to take a next step into the NCAA Tournament after being knocked out in the first round the past two seasons.
Playing against a pair of ranked teams might allow Ohio to grab the eyes of the voters for future polls, which sophomore defensive specialist Aubree Hord said is one of their goals for the season.
“Our goal is to be in the top 25 in the nation,” Hord said. “So if we’re going to do that then we need to beat these kind of teams.”