During the fourth set of Ohio’s match against Bowling Green on Friday, Lizzie Stephens leaped up and took a thunderous swing with her arm toward the ball.
Everyone in The Convo could hear the sound when Stephens connected, but it meant nothing when the ball slammed into the net and hit the court with a softer thud. It was Stephens fifth attacking error of the match, and she bent over in frustration. The Falcons, leading 2-1 in the match, increased their set lead to 5-3 without having to move.
The Bobcats had a handful of errors — not just by Stephens but by everyone — in their 3-1 loss to Bowling Green. The Bobcats’ hitting percentage was just .101 in the match, its third-lowest mark of the season, and they hit a season-high 33 attacking errors.
“It was very poor,” coach Deane Webb bluntly said about Ohio’s offensive performance. The Bobcats had just one player, Simone Miller, attain a hitting percentage higher than Stephens’ .106 hitting percentage.
“You’re not going to win very many matches, regardless of who you’re playing, if your second-best hitter hits .106,” Webb said.
Ohio was going to have a tough time beating Bowling Green, who have looked like the best team in the Mid-American Conference this season, and swept the Bobcats handily on Oct. 6.
But there were periods where the Bobcats looked like the better team Friday.
Bowling Green’s offense, which had a hitting percentage of .178 Friday, wasn’t much better than Ohio’s. The Bobcats used five blocks in the first set to overpower the Falcons and take a 1-0 match lead, and there were pockets of time after the first set where it looked like the Bobcats could gain a sizable set lead over the MAC’s toughest team.
But that was when its offense let the team down. The Bobcats hit 26 attacking errors after the first set, and it could never pull itself ahead of a Falcons’ offense that never looked consistent. Bowling Green’s hitting percentage never went above .171 until the fourth set, when it hit .220.
Ohio had a chance to capitalize on Bowling Green’s paltry offense, but its own offense didn’t allow that to happen.
“(Bowling Green) deserves to win tonight,” Webb said. “They played better and effectively won a conference championship tonight.”
Although Ohio’s attacking errors ultimately hurt it the most, the Bobcats also struggled to work around the Falcons’ Kallie Seimet.
At 5-foot-8, Seimet is anything but intimidating on Bowling Green’s side of the court, but she’s statistically the best libero in the nation.
Seimet entered Friday leading the nation with an average of 6.67 digs per set. When the Bobcats weren’t hitting balls out of bounds, they had to work around Seimet, who was up to the challenged and registered a team-leading 25 digs.
Stephens, Jaime Kosiorek and Stephanie Olman, Ohio’s heaviest swingers, knew they had a tough challenge against Seimet. But even their most powerful swings were no match for her lightning-fast reactions and precise positioning.
“It sucks having a good swing and knowing that it’s coming right back up,” Stephens said. “She’s one of the best players in the conference. We knew we have to keep it away from her so we don’t have those moments.”
Ohio’s status in the MAC Tournament next week is relatively unchanged after the loss. The Bobcats will likely grab the seventh or eighth seed, which sets them up for a match against the fifth or sixth seed.
But if the Bobcats’ offense continues to play like it did on Friday, the opponent’s seed might not matter.