Deane Webb has two daughters: Sarah, 14, and Ashlyn, 11; But during the school year, the two sisters add 16 more siblings to the family.
They’re the Ohio volleyball team.
Webb makes no secrets when it comes to players interacting with his family. When a high-school recruit recently met with Webb in April, he told her the words he’s shared with so many other prospects:
“I will not recruit you unless you can be a role model to my daughters.”
Entering his third year at Ohio and coming off a Mid-American Conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance, Webb has found a few recruits that’ve fit the billing.
And although success in the standings is imperative for keeping his job – last season he surpassed 400 career wins and took the Bobcats to the NCAA Tournament – Webb said being a father figure to his players trumps the recognition of titles and victories.
When he stares out onto the court, he doesn’t see his players solely on a team he coaches. Rather, he sees children of his own, full of feelings, mistakes and youthful exuberance, and he expects them to be upstanding members of the Athens community.
“There are a lot of little girls out there watching,” Webb emphasizes to his players. “They’re going to live life with you.”
Sarah and Ashlyn live life with the Bobcats. And in life, there’s change.
The most recent change involves five “sisters” — Aubree Hord, Karin Bull, Shelby Walker, Meredith Ashy and Abby Gilleland, a former two-time MAC Player of the Year winner — graduating from the Bobcat family.
Especially the departing Gilleland and Ashy, the Bobcat all-time leader in digs per set, won’t make saying “Goodbye” any easier.
Where panic would normally set in, the Bobcats are not flustered — but motivated — to get back to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid. Especially so with a group of players who have been there before.
Mallory Salis, Jaime Kosiorek and Ali Lake are all returning with offensive experience. Against BYU in last year’s NCAA Tournament, the three provided 43 of the 64 kills for Ohio.
Kosiorek and Salis finished the season at first and second in the Bobcat total attack category.
With more of a defensive mindset, sophomore libero Erica Walker will have an expanded role this year, as she recorded double-digit digs in the tournament match against BYU.
Walker also appeared in all 33 matches last season as a freshman.
Finishing last year with a 25-8 overall record, the Bobcats aren’t accustomed to losing. They haven’t posted a losing record since 2001, and Webb and his family-oriented group are looking to preserve that feat.
They know exactly what is expected from them in his philosophy. And for those recruited to the scene, they’ll learn fast.
Webb doesn’t yell or stomp his feet if there are struggles. He doesn’t have to.
The players can see the frustration in his face. They look over at a coach with arms crossed, a tinge of crimson covering his cheeks, a slight frown surrounded by patches of reddish-orange and gray in a well-kept beard.
And this season there will surely be times when Webb will want to scream — Ohio will face 11 teams from the top 100 of the 2015 Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) — but win or lose, what he really cares about is the way his players respect the program, respect the community and respect him.
As a coach, a mentor and a quasi-dad.
“When it’s all over, when I retire, I’m gonna be a lot more concerned with, ‘How many kids am I hearing from?’” he said. “‘How many weddings have I attended? How many kids of players have I met?’ I hope that when kids get done, they feel that I enriched their lives.”