Shelby Walker, a senior on the volleyball team last year, sat calmly on the side of Ohio coach Deane Webb’s first weekly press conference of the season.
Walker was in a white Ohio Sports Administration polo, now working for the university, waiting for her former coach to arrive.
Focused more on what he’d say regarding his upcoming opener against No. 22 Western Kentucky this Friday at 6 p.m. in The Convo, all Webb could muster out when he passed an official-looking Walker was:
“Man, is it weird seeing you here.”
As odd as it may have been for Webb to see Walker working outside of the court, it’ll be just as strange for him to not see Meredith Ashy, Abby Gilleland and Karin Bull take the floor Friday night.
To start in place of the once-locked positions of libero and setter filled by Ashy and Gilleland, senior Brooke Coleman and freshman Katelyn Burke are set to debut.
“We tell our players, ‘We’re not asking you to replace anyone,’” Webb said. “’We’re asking you to be the best version of yourself.’”
Coleman, who has suffered from multiple injuries and has missed several games throughout her Bobcat career, is someone Webb feels can be a key defensive specialist and leader.
Leadership will be imperative on opening night with multiple freshmen likely to see the floor including Burke and freshman outside hitter Lizzie Stephens.
“Having multiple freshman starting on the court will be different than what we’ve seen in a while,” Coleman said.
Stephens mentioned having “a few jitters” in her opening appearance in Ohio’s annual Green and White scrimmage, but playing against a Top 25 team in a packed home arena will certainly bring out a few more butterflies.
“I think my only advice (to freshmen) would be to get excited, but not be tense,” Coleman said. “Being nervous in front of a crowd won’t help them play any better.”
Ohio is slightly familiar with the Western Kentucky volleyball program, especially after both reached the NCAA Tournament last season and were placed into the same region.
The Bobcats would’ve gone on to play Western Kentucky, if they beat BYU in the first round.
Following the first half of the Bobcat Invitational, Ohio will take on Florida Gulf Coast and Villanova on Saturday at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.
With expectations less lofty than a year ago and Bobcat fans needing to check the roster a few more times Friday, Webb expressed his excitement for his young players to simply go out and play.
“For the young ones, there are extra nerves,” Webb said. “It can be overwhelming in a good way. There can be so much excitement; you might find yourself playing better than you ever have before. Because the moment takes you there.”