Redshirt senior Ali Lake walked off the court in Millett Hall at Miami University wearing her Ohio volleyball jersey for the final time; the Bobcats had just lost to Miami in the Mid-American Conference semifinal.
Lake’s season wasn’t a storybook ending like most seniors dream of. Her senior year has been different, to say the least.
She’s battled injury and struggled to find court time in the rotation during her senior season. The 2017 season didn’t go as expected— she was an all-conference player last season.
That didn’t stop Lake from being a leader, doing her part on and off the court to help the Bobcats in any way she could.
“(Being injured) is not always everyone’s ideal senior year,” Lake said. “But it’s really meant a lot for me becoming a team player in my final year. I’m really working to benefit the team more this year than any other year.”
With both of Ohio’s captains sidelined with injury for most of the season, Lake needed to take a leadership role, not only as a senior, but as an experienced member of the team.
It wasn’t a “lead by example” role as Lake imagined, though. It was a vocal position. She was working to find the right things to say to the young Bobcat roster.
But she wasn’t just looking for a vocal role. Lake still wanted to lead by example, and her work ethic to battle back from injury to finish her senior season proved that. She also took what she saw from the captains on the team, Katie Nelson and Jaime Kosiorek, to inspire her to keep working hard with injury.
“It’s super inspiring to me,” Lake said. “Knowing that everyone’s working on and off the court really pushes me as well.”
The work ethic didn’t come instantly, though. Lake is a winner. She won a MAC Championship and appeared in an NCAA Tournament in 2015. She was elected first-team all conference in 2016. She’s worked hard to earn those honors.
Lake’s teammates took notice of her hard work and ability to bounce back from injury throughout the season. Lake means a lot to the volleyball program at Ohio, and the program means a lot to her. It shows.
“It shows a lot,” junior outside hitter Stephanie Olman said. “Even if she’s not in the place that she probably wants to be she’s still doing what she can to contribute to the team as much as she can.”
At her senior night on Nov. 11, Lake was honored at midcourt and was presented her jersey in a frame, along with a bouquet of flowers. She didn’t play until the third and final set of Ohio’s sweep of Central Michigan. When she was inserted into the match, the Bobcats were nearing match point. And at match point, Lake recorded the final kill on her senior night in The Convo.
As Ohio’s season came to a close Saturday night in the MAC Tournament semifinal, Lake and the Bobcats reflected after the match on her career donning the green and white.
“We spent some time honoring her,” coach Deane Webb said about his post-match locker room speech. “Letting her know what she means to all of us, what she means to this program and just respecting how she chose to give this year.”