Ohio’s bench isn’t your ordinary bench.
“Bench” isn’t even the right term for the 14 or so players that aren’t in the match. They don’t use the actual bench. None of the players sit in the row of chairs behind them. They all stand.
Because if they were sitting down, they couldn’t do what they do best — be obnoxious.
When the Bobcats are playing well, no one is having a better time than Ohio’s bench. Players are constantly dancing, jumping and chanting after each kill, ace and block. The Bobcats have a different chant for each player who serves or makes a big play, and they’re often louder than the crowd that sits in the lower bowl of The Convo.
With 20 total players, Ohio has the biggest roster and bench-size in the Mid-American Conference. Not everyone has a chance to play, but they all still want to make an impact on the match.
For the players on the Bobcats’ sideline, their impact is made by chanting, stomping and, as Allyson Vaughn put it: “Annoy the crap out of the other team and get in their heads.”
“Our inside-joke goal is to be on ESPN for top-10 bench or whatever,“ she said.
The bench’s chants, which include singing “O Canada” for Regina, Saskatchewan, native Katie Nelson and chanting “mo Miller, mo money!” for Simone Miller, have become a necessity to the atmosphere the Bobcats bring on match day.
Ohio’s bench players also danced to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” on Sept. 28 against Buffalo and started a small arena-wide clap to the song’s beat.
“It's my favorite thing ever,” Nelson said. “It's awesome. It drives us."
The bench’s antics are impossible to block out. The only person who can ignore the bench is the one guy who happens to be the closest person standing next to them the entire match: Deane Webb.
“I have no clue what they are, and honestly I hardly ever notice them,” Webb said about his team’s chants. “Like, I heard there was a story being done about some of the stuff that our team is doing. I'm like, ‘No clue.’
“There could be a fire in the building right behind our bench, and I would have no idea.”
Webb said he’s always laser-focused on the action in front of him, but the few times he has noticed his team’s off-court camaraderie are arguably the craziest stories about Ohio’s bench.
Webb cheerfully recalled one particular moment involving Meredith Howe a year or two ago. He said he was looking to sub Howe, a libero and defensive specialist, into the match, but when he turned around to call her in, she was on the ground playing dead.
Someone on Ohio’s bench shot Howe down with an imaginary gun after Ohio notched a big play. The bench was hysterical.
“I look over there and she's laying on the ground and I'm like, ‘What are we doing?,’” Webb said. “So, in that moment, I wasn't really happy because we weren't ready to go into the game.”
Besides that moment, Webb will always encourage his bench to stand up and be loud. He believes having bench players that don’t, well, use the bench keeps the entire building engaged in the match — the starters, the subs and even the fans.
“It just helps, if you do something well, just a little extra energy,” Webb said. “Whether it's from the crowd or from the bench. It might help you extend that into a several-point run.”
Vaughn, an outside hitter and defensive specialist, is one of a few bench veterans who have molded Ohio’s exclusive non-starter club into what it is. She said Tia Jimerson, who’s been out with a leg injury since Sept. 1, and Stephanie Olman take pride in their ability to amp up themselves and the crowd.
But the energy also comes in handy when one of the bench players has to enter the match. Vaughn said when she briefly played on Sept. 29 against Akron, her first time being subbed on the court since Sept. 14, she felt “chill” because of the fun environment created by the bench.
“It kind of keeps me loose,” she said. “I feel like if we sit there, we're just stale. I don't know if that's the best word to use. It's like, ‘OK, I kind of have to build the energy myself.’”
When asked about if she remembers any time where an opponent appeared visibly annoyed by Ohio’s bench performances, Vaughn laughed. She couldn’t recall any particular moment, but she didn’t need to. She already knows that Ohio has the reputation it wants.
“I think we're so into our cheers that we don't even look at the other team,“ she said. “I think we're too goofy to be intimidating, honestly. We take pride, though, if other teams are talking about us. We would take pride in them being like, ‘Yeah, Ohio's got a really obnoxious bench.’”