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Katelyn Burke (13) barely keeps the ball alive against Villanova in the Convocation Center on August 27th 2016 MATT STARKEY|FOR THE POST

Volleyball: Recent wave of losses is not of concern

If there’s anything to take away from a young Ohio performance in this weekend’s Bobcat Invitational, it’s this:

There's no need to panic.

Sure, Ohio dropped its opening three matches against No. 22 Western Kentucky, Florida Gulf Coast and Villanova, but the Bobcats’ true identity was hidden by a slew of injuries and the shallow expectations of a group of freshmen.

“A lot of kids grew up,” Ohio coach Deane Webb said.

Webb mentioned that the games were not necessarily competitive and, in some cases, were full-on blowouts.

But the biggest disappointment to him was the way Ohio struggled to control opposing team serves.

In Saturday’s match-up against Florida Gulf Coast, Ohio was on the wrong end of 12 service aces.

“We knew serve receive was going to be a struggle. We just didn’t know it was going to be that big of a struggle,” Webb said.

The defensive pace was not at an acceptable level for Webb’s standards.

Not that Ohio is slow, but reaction time was late and having three high-level matches within 24 hours – for some who hadn’t gone at full NCAA speed in months – was difficult.

In practice Monday, Ohio set up two courts. One will focus on everyday drills in every facet of the game, while another will host a ball machine that will be set to run for 180 minutes straight of practice.

Although Ohio will undoubtedly realize what specifically went wrong by this light “punishment,” there were some glimpses of promise from the weekend.

Freshman outside hitter Lizzie Stephens hit the ball with more determination and pace than your average attacker making her college debut.

Stephens’ 16 kills against Western Kentucky were the second most in a freshman’s first game at Ohio since Katie Smith’s 23 kills in 2001.

“Fearless attacker,” Webb said of Stephens. “Boy did I love her mindset. She had the mentality that, ‘I’m gonna go up and hit every ball until you like it.’ ”

Senior Mallory Salis shares that same mentality, however, this weekend she was forced to hold it back from the Convo’s upper deck. Webb noted her voice on the court and her defensive athleticism was sorely missed.

Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Katie Nelson was also absent, forcing freshman Sara Januszewski to clog the middle of the net a few more times than she probably would have liked in her collegiate debut.

Ohio would have liked to come out of the weekend with at least one victory in its tournament debut but that didn’t happen either.

Give the Bobcats a few more days to get healthy and mesh in practice, and perhaps their growing pains will become less and less severe.

@NKairys 

nk596613@ohio.edu

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