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Vera Giacomazzi (6) sets her teammate up at Ohio's match aganist WMU on Oct. 19.

Volleyball: Olman starts, helps Ohio's offense explode with season-highs against Western Michigan

Coach Deane Webb sat down with his assistant coaches on Monday looking to answer one big question: what do they need to do to turn Ohio around?

The coaches discussed several possibilities toward fixing what appeared to be a broken team, which had a four-game losing streak and sat closer to the bottom of the Mid-American Conference than to the top.

So, on Friday, there was one major change to Ohio’s lineup. Stephanie Olman, who has appeared in just 21 sets in this season, replaced Katie Nelson, who’s been a mainstay in the Bobcats’ lineup in 2018.

Webb couldn’t have asked for more out of Olman on Friday against Western Michigan. The senior had eight kills, third on Ohio, and totaled a .300 hitting percentage to help the Bobcats sweep the Broncos, 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-13) at The Convo.

Olman received the message Thursday from Webb that she’d be replacing Nelson against Western Michigan. She was tasked with helping the Bobcats snap a four-match losing streak that, if extended, would likely spell the end of Ohio’s postseason hopes.

“I was really excited and ready for the opportunity,” Olman said with a straight face. She didn’t show much expression in her postgame interview, but she also didn’t show much expression on the court either. She was confident in completing her job — help Ohio save its season — and she couldn’t have done it better.

The Bobcats hit a new low in 2018 after losing four-straight road games to begin October. A loss on Friday meant that the Bobcats would probably need to win out or receive an abundance of help from other MAC opponents to avoid missing out on the MAC Tournament for the first time since 2001.

Webb was desperate to find a solution that would save Ohio, selected to win each team achievement in the MAC preseason coaches’ poll, from missing out on its first MAC Tournament since 2001.

He turned to Olman’s two-footed jumping ability, and it paid off. The Bobcats’ offense reset and exploded for a season-high .340 hitting percentage on Friday.

Because Olman jumps with two feet, she has more range toward striking the ball when Ohio’s offense is out of system. Nelson, whose 6-foot-4 frame gives her a more powerful strike, only jumps with one foot and has less time to strike the ball when the offense is in flux.

When Ohio’s offense was out of system on Friday, Olman’s two-footed leap helped straighten out Ohio’s attack, which had accrued 100 attacking errors in the four-game losing skid. 

But with Olman on Friday, the offense looked outstanding. It had just 10 attacking errors, which tied the Bobcats’ season-best and outplayed Western Michigan in nearly every single offensive category.

Olman, who always watches a team-high two hours of practice video per week to prepare for opponents, might have also created the opportunity for more playing time in the future. Webb didn’t rule out the possibility of offering more playing time to Olman, and he’ll be taking a closer look at the advantages both Nelson and Olman bring in each matchup.

“I think it’ll be something we tweak match-to-match,” Webb said. “We’ll decide what the best matchup for us will be. It’s definitely something we’ll strongly look at going forward.”

Because of Olman’s boost to the offense, the Bobcats can finally take a breath. It’s what Webb did when he explained just how crucial Friday’s win was.

“It was big,” Webb said looking more relieved than any other Ohio win this season. “We needed it. We needed to play and get a win.”

Game notes

- Jaime Kosiorek broke Ohio’s all-time career service ace record with her third ace in Friday’s match.

- Emily Walsh did not play on Friday. Webb said that she will out Saturday but will likely return next weekend.


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