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Kelly Laberti, a senior outside hitter, serves against Texas Friday night. Ohio was swept by Texas Friday night. 

Volleyball: Ohio looks to grab win against Northwestern

The Bobcats will be well-matched but ready to face the Wildcats on the road.

Despite playing well so far this season, Ohio is still in search of a statement win out of their tough non-conference slate.

With a matchup against the Big Ten’s Northwestern Wildcats, the Bobcats will get their final chance to snag a statement non-conference victory before entering Mid-American Conference play next week. They will have to do that in a hostile environment as the Wildcats are 3-0 at home this season after sweeping their home tournament last weekend.

Northwestern’s lone loss on the season came at the hands of then-No. 15 San Diego in straight sets. Outside of that victory, the Wildcats have had a fairly pedestrian non-conference schedule with the only big names in their win column being Colorado and Virginia.

With eight wins this season, Northwestern has started to draw recognition from around the nation. For their quick start to the season, the Wildcats received eight votes in Monday’s American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

“Northwestern is a Big Ten team, maybe they’re not well known right now,” junior libero Meredith Ashy said. “Getting these Big Ten wins is very important for our program … I’m just excited to play Northwestern because I have a good friend on that team, so it will be interesting to play against her.”

Northwestern’s attack is spread across the floor, as the Wildcats have four players with more than 70 kills on the season. Symone Abbott leads Northwestern with 98 kills, averaging 3.14 kills per set this year. Ohio is used to seeing their balanced style of attack as the past two tournaments have primed them for what they will face.

Abbott, a freshman outside hitter, heads a fairly young Wildcat squad as 11 of the 18 players on the roster are underclassmen. This is yet another thing the Bobcats have become accustomed too and have fared well against younger teams this season.

Coach Deane Webb is more concerned with how his team is improving heading into conference play rather than anything else at this point in the year.

“We always have to be improving,” Webb said. “Although we always focus on our opponent and scout them. We always have to focus on ourselves because there’s always something we can improve on as a team.”

After the Bobcats hit the floor against Northwestern, they will have the toughest part of the schedule behind, but they will quickly turn their attentions to UW-Green Bay on Friday before opening MAC play at The Convo next Thursday.

The Phoenix have struggled to start, as they have been swept in four of their first nine games this season. Green Bay compares to VCU — who Ohio swept two weeks ago — in that they are a young and smaller team, so expect them to operate their offense quickly.

After finishing a tough non-conference slate, Ohio should have a strong RPI which is exactly what the Bobcats expected heading into it.

“You better be in that 25 to 35 RPI range if you expect to make it into the NCAA tournament,” Webb said. “It’s something as a coach that I have to pay more attention to not just in knowing how important it is, but in how we train.”

@Kovarandrew

ak840511@ohio.edu

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