It didn’t take long to find out who the Bobcats needed to suppress after losing the first set Friday at The Convo.
Ohio was being controlled by Buffalo’s Andrea Mitrovic, who averaged four kills per match — second in the MAC — before Friday.
The Bobcats allowed 25 kills — 12 in the first set — from Mitrovic in Friday’s 3-2 (25-22, 17-25, 22-25, 26-24, 15-9) defeat to the Bulls. It was Ohio’s first Mid-American Conference loss of 2018, and the first time ever the Bobcats have lost to Buffalo at home.
“I would never feel great anytime someone gets 25 kills against us, regardless of if there’s errors,” coach Deane Webb said. “She’s an outstanding player, and she’s one of my most favorite players in the conference that’s not on our team.”
The Bobcats knew all about Mitrovic’s talents before Friday. The sophomore entered the match leading the Bulls with 196 kills, which is good for second in the MAC.
So, when Ohio’s primary blocking squad of Katie Nelson, Simone Miller and Sara Januszewski began the match without a block until the score was 21-17 in the first set, something had to change. The trio was repeatedly hammered with strikes from the 6-foot-2 Mitrovic and Buffalo’s surging offensive attack.
“We changed (how) we were blocking (Mitrovic) to try to maintain her more,” Nelson said. “(We change) hand position, where we line up. Whether it’s you lining up with your nose on the ball or your hand on the ball, just to try to surround her more.”
Webb said he also moved his rotation forward one spot to find better looks against Mitrovic. The adjustments appeared to work. The Bobcats limited Mitrovic to a reasonable combined seven kills in the second and third sets, the only two sets they won.
As the Bobcats stole control of the game, Mitrovic looked dejected and rolled her eyes as Ohio looked poised to capture its 14th win against Buffalo in the previous four seasons.
But the Bobcats’ adjustments were only a temporary solution. Mitrovic roared back with six kills in the fourth set to send the match to a decisive fifth set, and she didn’t stop.
Ohio (7-9, 2-1 MAC) never had a lead in the fifth set, and Mitrovic registered another two kills to break her career-high of 24. The Bobcats looked at each other with blank faces after Mitrovic tallied a block to give Buffalo (9-6, 1-2 MAC) the winning point.
Nelson, who’s transitioned to outside hitter but still leads Ohio’s blocking efforts, was at the front of most of Mitrovic’s attacks. Nelson, a redshirt senior, is usually energetic and boats a happy-go-lucky attitude, but she brought a different vibe after the defeat.
“She’s a great player,” Nelson said, looking down. “She’s always been a good player, a good physical hitter, and that’s just something that we didn’t handle well tonight.”
-Jaime Kosiorek notched one service ace Friday, bringing her to within 10 aces of Ohio's all-time service ace record.
- Tia Jimerson didn't play. She was still in a boot, which means she's almost certainly unavailable Saturday against Akron.
-Kyra Slavik was also out with a hand injury. She was standing with Ohio's bench players wearing a white-long sleeve hoodie with no large cast or tape wrapped around a hand.