Coach Deane Webb looked upbeat and relaxed as he walked to the postgame press huddle after Ohio’s loss to Miami on Saturday night.
It would’ve been easy for Webb to show frustration and anger after the Bobcats failed to win a set against the RedHawks in their last regular season match before the Mid-American Conference Tournament next week. Instead of expressing anger over Ohio’s missed opportunity to beat its biggest rival, Webb looked cool and content with how his team fared against one of the top teams in the conference.
The 3-0 (26-24, 30-28, 25-21) score doesn’t suggest it, but Ohio competed in nearly every facet against Miami. The Bobcats couldn’t find that one final leap, swing or dig to finish each set against the RedHawks Saturday at The Convo.
“That’s part of sports,” Webb said. “You don’t get credit for only being able to win when they’re big. You got to be able to win the close ones.”
The Bobcats had a chance at winning each set Saturday — the first two sets went into extra points — but struggled to find the last puzzle piece in the final moments of each set. It erased what was otherwise a solid offensive performance from the Bobcats, who had two less kills than Miami and the same amount of attacking errors (15).
In the first set, Ohio coughed up a small 3-0 Miami scoring run after the Bobcats took a 24-23 lead. The RedHawks earned their last point because libero Macy Reihing ran out of space and into Ohio’s bench on an assist attempt.
The crowd, which roared after each of Ohio’s final points in the set, was silenced.
In the second set, Meredith Howe was inches away from digging out a serve from Miami’s Sophie Riemersma with the RedHawks leading 29-28. Howe, a 5-foot-4 defensive specialist, stabbed at the quick serve, but the ball hit the floor and rolled under the net.
The crowd, which was on their feet for almost every point in the extra-point portion of the set, slowly sat back down.
In the third set, Ohio held Miami on its 24th point for three consecutive scores and nearly erased a six-point deficit. Instead, the Bobcats’ lost 25-21 after Webb conceded a challenge from Carolyn Condit, Miami’s coach, on whether Howe touched the ball from an attack from Miami’s Margaret Payne.
Webb’s sideline position gave him a clear view of the play. He knew that Howe touched the ball, and he knew that Ohio would be dealt another unfortunate ending to a hard-fought series. So, he told the referee that a challenge wasn’t needed.
The crowd, eager to see whether the Bobcats could complete the comeback, headed for the exits.
But Webb wasn’t frustrated with his team, which finished the match with a reasonable .219 hitting percentage and seven unforced errors.
“It’s one of those things where being close hurts more,” Webb said. “But you always want to be there. We have to find a way to get one point better, and it adds up to a much better team.”
Saturday’s loss may be considered a confidence-booster for the Bobcats, who have struggled to find positives when losing to the MAC’s top-performing teams. It’s how Jaime Kosiorek, a redshirt senior who played her final match in The Convo, is viewing the loss.
“We’re right there with the top team in the conference,” she said. “If we can just find that one little focus point at the end of the match, then it could be a different volleyball game.”
The Bobcats (12-17, 7-9 MAC) have the seventh seed in the MAC Tournament and will play Northern Illinois in the first round Thursday in Oxford.