The Mid-American Conference schedule did not begin well for the Bobcats. Ohio blew a 2-0 lead at home against East Division rival Bowling Green after it had dominated in nonconference play.
That tough start hasn’t slowed it down, however, since it went on to win five of its seven matches – two of them by sweeping its conference foes.
Ohio (13-8, 5-3 MAC) is currently tied for third with Bowling Green in the MAC East standings, which is where it was picked to finish in the preseason poll, after its first eight conference matches.
The Bobcats have steadily improved since their blown lead on Sept. 27 and they have put their hopes of making the MAC Tournament into their own hands.
Ohio has done so with its aggressive offense, which is No. 2 in hitting percentage and No. 1 in total attacks.
The most powerful offense in the conference has recognized that it needs to make defensive strides as well, though.
“We need to keep focusing on the defensive side until it’s really who we are, and not just a little upward blip on the trendline, so to speak,” coach Deane Webb said. “It needs to be a real thing; we need to do that over the course of several matches.”
Junior Tia Jimerson has led the charge to legitimize Ohio’s defense with the best defensive year of her career. Jimerson has 1.38 blocks per set this season and has almost reached her blocking total from last season in eight fewer matches.
“This past weekend we just achieved one of our defensive goals,” junior Vera Giacomazzi said. “To have a lot of effort, a lot of communication, a lot of good execution. I think it’s going to be really important for us to keep working with that and put new pieces to it.”
The Bobcats have already begun to plug new pieces into the system with freshman Ciara Livingway and sophomore Lauren Park. Livingway came up with back-to-back diving saves against Toledo while Park had one of her best matches of the season on that same night.
Ohio has made itself a legitimate contender in the conference, but that isn’t enough.
Not yet, anyway.
“I’m never content with where we are, but I am happy with where we are going in the last few weeks,” Webb said. “So, it’s a question of can we really stay hungry and keep moving forward.”
The Bobcats will need to stay hungry as they still have the biggest weekend of the season ahead of them.
On Nov. 1-2, Ohio will travel to Bowling Green and Miami for a match that will likely decide who gets second place in the MAC East.
Its other road matches to close out the season are at Western Michigan and Northern Illinois.
Ohio’s remaining home MAC schedule features matches against Kent State, Buffalo, Central Michigan and Akron.