BOWLING GREEN — All the Bobcats could do was stand and stare.
Jaime Kosiorek had just registered a kill that brought Ohio even, 28-28, with Bowling Green in the first set on Saturday at the Stroh Center. But Bowling Green coach Danijela Tomic didn’t think so. She thought Kosiorek hit the left antenna with her shot, and she challenged.
The Bobcats waited and waited on a call that would decide the first set. They lost. The referee ruled that Kosiorek's ball hit the antenna first, and the Falcons — and their crowd — erupted.
It was just the first set, but it foreshadowed the rest of the Bobcats’ 3-0 (29-27, 25-22, 25-9) loss, Ohio’s first loss at the Stroh Center in Deane Webb’s tenure as coach, to the Falcons on Saturday.
A lot of fight, but nothing in return.
“We didn’t handle things as good as we should have,” setter Vera Giacomazzi said. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
Webb spent nearly 40 minutes giving his postgame speech in the locker room. When he emerged, the room was quiet. Webb said a few more words to his assistant coaches, and then looked down.
“It’s important that we come out of this, Webb said. “When you’re challenged, you fight back together.”
Bowling Green accomplished something momentous in each set against Ohio. The first set was Ohio’s longest set of 2018, making the brutal sequence that gave the Bobcats a 1-0 deficit even tougher to swallow.
But the Bobcats couldn’t even control what happened in the second set. Bowling Green went the entire set without giving up an attacking error. The Falcons’ stellar .395 hitting percentage in the second set dominated what was still a solid .240 hitting percentage from the Bobcats.
Ohio (8-11, 3-3 Mid-American Conference) knew Bowling Green (11-8, 5-1 MAC) was one of, if not the most accurate attacking team in the MAC. Webb said on Tuesday he was impressed by how consistently the Falcons could keep the ball in play, and he preached to his team that they needed to match Bowling Green’s aggressiveness to win.
But zero attack errors in a set? That’s almost impossible to win against.
“They’re a really good defensive team,” Giacomazzi said. “We knew we should have put down the ball first, which was our plan. We didn’t do it.”
But the third set is where just about everything went wrong. The Bobcats lost 25-9, their biggest set loss of 2018. Ohio had just four kills. Bowling Green had six service aces.
The Bobcats were feeling the fatigue of their five-set defeat at Miami on Friday. They were feeling the weight of having their first weekend sweep of 2018 in their most important weekend of the year. They were feeling the pressure of taking their third conference loss in just their sixth MAC match of 2018.
And so, the Bobcats collapsed.
“I can’t remember that ever, ever happening, that you play a whole set and only get four kills,” Webb said. “At some point, our kids just loss confidence.”
Ohio will have another shot at Bowling Green at The Convo on Nov. 9. The Bobcats will also play Miami at home on Nov. 8. That weekend is now the Bobcats’ biggest weekend of the year.
It’s two games Ohio can’t wait for. But if that weekend ends up like this one, the Bobcats’ season could turn into a downward spiral.
“(That weekend) became incredibly important,” Webb said. “We need to focus on getting better each week, and November will take care of itself when we get there.”