Mallory Salis sat on a green plastic folding chair and fiddled with her ankle brace as her teammates surrounded her and stretched their arms and legs.
Sitting on the hardwood court, her teammates looked up at her as she talked with teammate Ali Lake. Coming off an important win against Virginia Tech, Salis sounded anything but cocky as she slipped her ankle brace over her foot.
It’s the senior's second consecutive year serving as the captain of the Bobcats, but it’s still a situation that’s uncommon for any Ohio captain in recent memory.
When Ohio (4-8) begins Mid-American Conference play this weekend against Akron and Buffalo, she’ll be one of the few Ohio captains to enter the conference schedule with a losing record.
“I feel like I have more of a sense of urgency knowing that this is my last season,” she said. “After this, there’s no more opportunities do something next year that we haven’t finished this year.”
After a lackluster non-conference performance, Salis knows that the team’s performance in the MAC will be the part of the schedule that makes or breaks them. And for her, she knows it’s her last go-around.
Coach Deane Webb said that when the team begins this weekend, it’s a new season.
The Bobcats may have a 4-8 record now, but the only thing that truly matters is the conference schedule. To qualify for the MAC Tournament in November, the Bobcats need to own one of the top eight records in the conference.
“Every team in the conference right now is 0-0,” Webb said. “Whether you're winning or losing, you have to be willing to put that aside. I think what's important is how you feel emotionally right now.”
The Bobcats are in a good place emotionally and he credits a lot of that to Salis.
Salis, alongside co-captain Brooke Coleman, has been a “steady” captain, according to Webb. But even with her steady leadership, her season –– and that of the Bobcats –– hasn’t been without it’s ups and downs.
Ohio has dropped matches against opponents they would previously defeat and, for Salis, she’s just one of the few seniors on an inexperienced team.
But, that doesn’t change what Salis calls the team’s “ultimate goal”.
“The ultimate goal is to win the MAC championship and then get to the NCAA’s,” she said. “That’s not going to happen from the start. I think people are underestimating us from our win-loss record when we’re looking at building blocks.”
To reach their ultimate goal, they’re going to need to start with a good first step this weekend against Buffalo and Akron.
The Bobcats know this is the part of the season that matters.