The third set lasted a lifetime.
Each score meant it was game point for Ohio, where the tradition is to have the fans stand and chant O-H-I-O until the set is over, or the score is tied again.
A young, drained Bobcat fan pleaded, “Mom, I don’t want to stand up and sit down anymore, I’m just gonna keep standing.”
Even though some fans gave up — especially after students and parents flooded the exit gates following Bowling Green’s momentous 36-34 third set victory — Ohio rallied for its two elder leaders on Senior Night on Saturday and controlled the fourth and fifth sets for a 3-2 win.
“We joked that we prolonged this game for (our seniors) as long as we could,” redshirt junior Katie Nelson said.
Nelson, who finished with 17 kills and hit at a .652 attack percentage, played a massive role at the net in a win that many felt marked her best performance so far in her collegiate career.
“That was fun,” Nelson said. “I didn’t even realize I played that well until (coach Deane Webb) told me the stats at the end. It was nice to do that for the seniors — on their night.”
It undoubtedly was their night. Seniors Mallory Salis and Brooke Coleman played their final game at The Convo.
And through whispers of, “this Ohio team is too young,” subtle hints of a rebuild process and uncomfortable questions about a nightmarish 4-8 non-conference start, Salis and Coleman heard it all this season.
Even through the skepticism — Ohio was picked to place third in the MAC East division before any games were played — the Bobcats locked up second place in their division.
“The history of Ohio Volleyball has always started off strong, and a lot of people were like, ‘Who are they now?” Salis said. “We’ve come a long way.”
Salis has come a long way, herself. She persevered through a position change to libero and hitting struggles to lead the Bobcats in kills at this point.
Coleman wasn’t handed any favors either. After battling multiple injuries and straining to find the right position, this year she found her fit in “zone one” and makes spectacular — some sprawling — digs for Ohio.
Though the third set did last a lifetime, so has the positive progress of this inexperienced Bobcat team, and they’re peaking at the most opportune time. The MAC Tournament is just two weeks away.
But more importantly, Ohio sent off Salis and Coleman the right way.
“Tonight was about the seniors,” Webb said. “Even more so than a win.”