When Deane Webb sat down to plan out his non-conference schedule before the season, he had a projected record in mind after completing the opening series at The Convo and a stretch of away-from-home invitationals.
“We’re two games behind where I thought we’d be right now,” he said.
Theoretically, Webb could have scheduled a majority of teams outside of the Top-200 rankings and pumped his team’s statistics before Mid-American Conference play.
Instead, the Bobcats faced Oklahoma and University of Texas-San Antonio programs last weekend and Ohio was forced to defend teams much more physical and experienced.
“Going into a big match like (Oklahoma), playing against a big team, we need to know that they're a team that can compete with us, and we can't be scared,” senior libero Brooke Coleman said postgame. “From the beginning of the game, we were playing scared, and that's what got us."
Last year, Ohio's defensive strength made it easier to hide some of the holes in skill level and lack of Division I size up front.
But this year, in terms of closing out sets — which the Bobcats failed to do in the Nike Invitational — Webb felt his team was hoping for the games to end, instead of making them end offensively.
Despite Ohio’s occasionally passive playing style over the weekend, some players took initiative.
Webb confirmed that sophomore Stephanie Olman took the lead in the starting setter race by contributing a career-high 47 assists Saturday against UTSA.
He was impressed by Olman’s presence at the net with a block and kill ability that freshman Katelyn Burke doesn’t necessarily possess.
Also on Saturday, junior outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek brought back her fearless demeanor by rising over UTSA in multiple instances for a season-high 21 kills.
“I'm wired that way,” Kosiorek said. “They're a lot more physical than I am, but I like to make it a challenge and help my team the best way I can.”
Although Kosiorek and the rest of her teammates may lack the physicality their non-conference schedule demands, Webb is looking forward to matching up with similar-sized MAC programs soon.
For now, though, he’s more concerned about his team’s improvement than its next opponent.
“We’re not a Top-70 team yet,” Webb said. “We can admit that. We own that.”