With the first week of Mid-American Conference behind the Bobcats, Ohio coach Deane Webb has made two things clear about the team:
“I know we are not going to be a Top-10 defensive team in the country," and “Ali Lake can be the best player in the MAC”
He says these aren’t secrets; any Division I coach around the MAC conference who watches only a few hours of film can figure out the Bobcats potential, and their shortcomings.
Ohio will be desperate play to its strengths on a road trip that could prove to be one of the most difficult of the season. Ohio travels to Oxford to play possibly the best team in the MAC, Miami, on Friday, and follows up with Bowling Green on Saturday
Where’s The Defense?
Undoubtedly, the Ohio defense is struggling.
Webb noted that around 30 percent of the time, his defense was completely out of position against Akron and Buffalo. Against Miami and Bowling Green, Ohio will not be able to afford that same kind of balance/technique issues and miscommunications.
“Defensively, we need a lot of work,” Webb said. “I’m not willing to accept that last year being one of the best defensive teams in the country, that we can have that big of a drop.”
The Ohio staff has also been indecisive when deciding who to put into the libero position.
Senior Mallory Salis recently settled in from outside hitter to libero, but Webb tested out a new strategy against Buffalo by subbing-in sophomore Erica Walker to the position mid-match.
Regardless of who’s at the helm of the backline, the Bobcat outside and middle attackers at the net are going to have their hands full.
Four Miami attackers have over 100 kills on the year – compared to Ohio’s two attackers – add in the Falcons Preseason All-MAC East selection Jelena Sunjic, will be a lot to handle all in one weekend.
A Confident Lake
Lake, a junior middle blocker, was named the MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, marking her first weekly conference recognition in her career.
Not only did she have the most kills per set (5) in the conference last weekend, she also hit an extremely successful attack rate at .500 (30 kills-six errors-48 total attacks).
Notably, one of Ohio’s most physical players at the net, Lake’s rising confidence as a player and efficiency in one-on-one blocking situations has setter Stephanie Olman looking her way a majority of the match.
“I knew Deane was telling everyone to get me the ball,” Lake said following a win against Akron last weekend. “That felt good.”
Look for Lake to be the go-to attacker again, and her closing individual stat sheet will probably determine how the Bobcats fared following this upcoming MAC road trip.