Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post
Meredith Howe instroduces herself to the spectators in the Athens Community Center before the Ohio green and white scrimmage on Augsut 20, 2016. (LAUREN BACHO | PHOTO EDITOR)

Volleyball: Ohio’s freshmen expected to play large role in 2016

Last season, Ohio won the Mid-American Conference Tournament in large part because of their seniors.

Abby Gilleland was the captain and set up their offensive attack. Meredith Ashy was arguably the best defensive player in the conference. Karin Bull was a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the court.

But as the Bobcats introduced themselves to the fans on the court before Saturday’s Green & White Scrimmage, they were gone, instead replaced by a new batch of freshmen.

If Webb and the coaching staff didn’t realize how young their team was before the introductions, they certainly did after. Five true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen introduced themselves to the crowd on the court that afternoon.

It’s a reality that the Bobcats are going to have to face this season. The team that won the MAC Tournament last year is, in fact, in a rebuilding mode of sorts.

Last year saw the departure of some of the most prolific players in the program’s history. Abby Gilleland, who holds the record for third-most assists in Ohio history, is gone. Karin Bull, who has the fourth-most blocks in history, is gone. Meredith Ashy, the record-holder for most digs, is gone as well.

This year, seven freshmen are set to fill their roles in the lineup, but they’re not exactly being asked to replace them.

“It’s not a matter of replacing them,” Brooke Coleman, one of the team’s two seniors, said. “It’s finding a different way to be better. People are maybe taking their positions. It’s about trying to be the best you, instead of trying to be replace the person who came before you.”

Coleman, who sat out a large portion of last season due to a concussion, will start at libero this Friday for the season opener, taking the position vacated by Ashy. The senior beat out freshman Meredith Howe and sophomore Erica Walker for the starting role.

It was the toughest position battle of the season, according to Webb, but he decided to go with Coleman, who is one of the team’s co-captains alongside Mallory Salis, as well as the team’s academic captain.

However, freshmen will be playing a large role on this team. Not only will Howe be sharing responsibilities with Coleman at libero, freshman Lizzie Stephens is expected to be a large contributor at the outside hitter position.

Stephens is a top recruit from Texas and has garnered several national accolades for her play at Frisco High School, including being named Prep Volleyball Senior Ace and an 11-time Max Preps Player of the Match. The 18-year-old will certainly see some playing time, but the exact amount of time will depend on the play of the upperclassmen ahead of her.

Webb isn’t the only coach taking notice of Ohio’s youth. On Monday, the MAC announced that Ohio was picked to finish third in the East Division in the annual coaches’ preseason poll. This is the first time since 2002 that Ohio was picked to finish below second.

“I don’t really pay attention to that,” Coleman said. “Honestly, it’s not usually what ends up happening. I think being the underdog is a blessing in disguise for us because people might not take us seriously. Being a young team, I think that will drive us to beat those teams.”

However, youth isn’t deterring the Bobcats from their aspirations of defending their title.

Coleman, unfazed by the team’s youthful disposition, knows that it’s always championship or bust for one of the most successful programs in the MAC.

“We’re looking to win and go to the NCAA Tournament. That’s our reputation at Ohio, and we’re looking to keep it that way.”


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH