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Volleyball: 'Cats lose all three in opening weekend

Deane Webb could have tinkered with the Ohio lineup all he wanted on Saturday evening, but it would not change anything.

It just wasn’t Ohio’s match.

Actually, it just wasn’t its tournament, and it’s certainly not the way the Bobcats wanted to start their season: losing all three matches and only winning one set all weekend. The Bobcats lost to No. 22 Western Kentucky 3-1, Florida Gulf Coast 3-0 and Villanova 3-0.

For the defending Mid-American Conference champions, it’s certainly a disappointing way to start the season. Ohio hasn’t started the season 0-3 since 2012, when it faced two top-15 programs.

But with a roster that includes seven freshmen, the Bobcats are settling into a new reality.

In his 20 years of coaching, Webb has witnessed a lot. He’s seen teams start out hot and falter, and he’s seen teams that stumble out of the gates and make the NCAA Tournament. With his team starting winless, he's owning up to the fact that his team is beginning the season poorly.

“It is what it is,” he said. “It’s a horrible cliche. It is that way because we caused it to be that way. We weren’t mentally strong enough to get the wins that we should have this weekend.”

On the forefront in this weekend’s tournament was Ohio’s freshmen. In addition to taking over roles from last year’s graduated seniors, they were also tasked with taking over roles from injured players.

Mallory Salis (illness) and Katie Nelson (concussion) missed all three games this weekend, with Ali Lake missing the final game against Villanova.

Taking over for Salis, Lizzie Stephens shined in her opening weekend. She currently leads the team in kills with 33, while also contributing 20 blocks.

Webb commended her “fearlessness” on the court, saying he’d rather have an over-aggressive hitter than a timid one.

Jaime Kosiorek, a fellow outside hitter, is glad to see how well she played at home during her first weekend, where nerves can strike some freshmen.

“We always see freshmen who’ve never played in front of our fans before,” she said. “Playing in front of these fans can take you to a different place. She got to experience Ohio volleyball, which is what she came for.”

After the game, Webb had a lengthy conversation with his team. He wasn’t offering any excuses for his team. He’s looking forward to continuing the tradition of excellence this program is usually accustomed to.

“You can only use the ‘We’re a young team’ thing for about one more week,” he said. “Then, we’re a team. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, a sophomore, or whatever. You’re a Bobcat, and you’ve got to play good volleyball.”


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