OXFORD — Four Ohio players emerged from the locker room to applause from the dozens of parents and fans. Tears were streaming down each of their faces for the final curtain call of their collegiate careers.
Three seniors — Jaime Kosiorek, Katie Nelson, Stephanie Olman — and Carley Remmers, a redshirt junior who retired due to injury, slowly walked across the court at Millett Hall. They waved, choked up and gave hugs after the Bobcats played their last game of the season, a 3-2 (25-14, 23-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-12) loss to Ball State on Friday in the second round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
It was a disappointing end for Ohio — picked to win the regular season, MAC East Division and MAC Tournament by the conference’s coaches in the preseason poll — but coach Deane Webb couldn’t help but only think about what he was losing with this year’s team.
“They’ve all given a great deal to us,” Webb said as he looked at his seniors across the hall. “You share some private moments with them, we’ll share a few more, but we’re thankful for all of them.”
No. 7-seeded Ohio was supposed to be the MAC’s best team in 2018. Instead, it struggled to win matches against the conference’s biggest opponents and went 4-9 against teams that made the MAC Tournament.
Kosiorek, who broke Ohio’s career service-ace record this season, ended her final match as a Bobcat with 15 kills and two service aces. The redshirt senior said after Thursday’s win that “Postseason Jaime,” a nickname her teammates gave her for her aggressive looks when she plays in the postseason, was back.
Her angry facial expressions when she served the ball or buried a kill confirmed it.
Nelson and Remmers’ impact was made on the sidelines for two different, but difficult reasons.
Remmers was out because of a back injury suffered in August that forced her to retire. Nelson was out because the offense performed better when Olman was the right-side hitter.
Yet both were the loudest players on Ohio’s bench Friday. They kicked their legs and led chants as the Bobcats matched every part of Ball State’s talent on the court.
But the biggest impact came from Olman. The right-side hitter played her best match ever with Ohio and set a career-high with 21 kills. The Cardinals couldn’t handle Olman, who started the season on the bench but was the core of the Bobcats’ offense after she started Ohio’s last 10 games.
Olman finished the MAC Tournament with a team-leading 35 kills.
“What a way to go out,” Webb said. “If you’re going to not win, you go out playing the best match of your life and playing the best volleyball of your life. And she’s someone I have so much respect for because she’s had such a wild ride.”
When Webb was asked how he would replace the four departing players. He paused.
He knew he was losing more than some of his team’s best offensive strikers.
He was losing players he considered to be family. They babysat his kids, they had barbecues together with the team and they lived through each other’s ups and downs.
“I’ll be right there,” Webb said to the players waiting for one more meeting with their coach.
He finished talking about their impacts on the court, and then he excused himself and walked over to them as tears fell down their faces.
It was time to have one last moment.