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Ali Lake (#8) and Shelby Walker (#13) block the ball during Ohio's game against Central Michigan on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. (FILE)

Volleyball: Ohio ready for unpredictable MAC tournament

Ohio looks to avenge last year's disappointing MAC tournament loss and advance to first NCAA tournament since •2013. 

The Bobcats don’t know much about this weekend.

Without a doubt, the biggest match of their season awaits them Saturday night, when they’ll compete in the Mid-American Conference tournament semifinals. 

For the entire week, though, they won’t even know their opponent. They’ve scouted the three potential teams, knowing that they could face just about any one of them because of a bye in the first two rounds. 

The tournament is filled with surprises, and No. 2 Ohio (23-6, 13-3 MAC) is all too familiar with that.

Just last year, Ohio was coming off an undefeated regular season conference schedule and was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. Its stay in the tournament didn’t last long, however, as Ohio was knocked off in its first game by Western Michigan, the eventual tournament champions.

That loss is still fresh in Ohio’s minds.

“It’s a chance for vindication,” Ohio coach

Deane Webb said about this upcoming weekend.

Not just vindication against Western Michigan, but for the teams that beat the Bobcats this year, as well.

Unlike last year, Ohio has three losses in conference play this season, against Northern Illinois, Miami and Kent State, respectively. Each of those teams is a potential opponent against Ohio this weekend.

“It’s a chance to go out there and beat a team that beat you,” Webb said. “That’s what this time of year is about.”

Even with the unpredictability, however, the Bobcats are not making any changes to their gameplan this weekend.

Webb said he doesn’t want to make any large-scale changes before the biggest weekend of the year, especially if Ohio's gameplan has worked so far this season.

“It’s about doing what you do, but trying to get two percent better,” he said.

With that in mind, the Bobcats most likely stick to their gameplan, which has heavily included junior outside hitter Mallory Salis.

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In her previous game against Akron, Salis had a double-double with 15 kills and 12 digs. She wasn’t much of an offensive factor in the postseason last year, recording a .000 hitting percentage in Ohio's, 3-2, loss to Western Mchigan.

“We're better when she’s out there,” Webb said. “You can’t play next to her and not play hard. If you do, you’re going to be embarrassed. Having her out there, that’s one piece.

What won’t be a surprise to Ohio this weekend is the location. As a matter of fact, hosting the tournament should be one of Ohio’s biggest advantages this weekend.

However, history doesn’t bode that way.

Ohio hosted the tournament last year, with Western Michigan winning the tournament. The last team to win the tournament on their own campus was Ball State in2002.

With that, Webb is treating this weekend as more of an experience.

“When we’re together, we’re treating it as if we were on the road,” he said. “But we have the familiarity of being in The Convo and having our fans there. We’re hopefully finding the balance of it (being) a championship event, because it shouldn’t feel like another home game. It should feel like a championship, but it also should feel comfortable.”


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