This week in practice the Ohio volleyball hitters will be slightly more on edge than normal during one particular drill.
Two balls will be set up in the air. Two opportunities. A kill resulting in a win, but two errors, quite simply, will be a loss.
“If you lose, there will be a consequence,” Ohio coach Deane Webb said.
Not that Webb enjoys punishing his players, but to him, something needs to stick with his Bobcats when it comes to finishing off a set after holding a large lead.
This weekend against Virginia Tech, Ohio expected an early bus ride home while up two games to none, leading in the third set, 24-19. Instead, the Bobcats lost eight of the next nine points and were eventually forced to a fifth set.
In another instance against UNC-Wilmington on Sept. 3 – tied at one game apiece – Ohio led the third set 24-21, but committed five straight errors to allow the Seahawks back in to win the set. UNC-Wilmington went on to close out the fourth set, and the match.
“I think anytime there is a re-occurring error or theme, it starts with me,” Webb said. “We have to simulate, somehow, the pressure of those moments. We’ll be working toward that.”
Possibly absent from the drill will be senior – now libero – Mallory Salis.
Salis, regarded as one of Ohio’s top outside hitters last season, was moved from her recently familiar position to make room for freshman outside hitter Lizzie Stephens.
Webb acknowledged that Salis showed some struggles attacking within the past two months, and with her athleticism and defending still at an extremely high level, she would be better valued at another position.
With the absence of former All-MAC setter Abby Gilleland, Ohio’s inexperienced setters have slowed down the pace of play. That decrease in the speed Salis feeds off has led to less one-on-one matchups for Salis and more hands vying for a block.
Salis, however, is up for the task.
Webb said of Salis’ reaction to the position change, “There wasn’t even a split second of a, ‘Alright… I’ll do that.’ It was more like, ‘Okay. Let’s do it.’ ”
There’s a chance Salis can move back to outside hitter mid-way into MAC play. But for the time being, Salis can avoid a heavy load of pressure during Webb’s drill with an unforeseen consequence.