Lizzie Stephens will have her name in plenty of places in Ohio’s record book after she plays her final match for the Bobcats.
The senior became the tenth player in the rally scoring era to hit 1,000 kills in the first set of Ohio’s sweep against Kent State on Oct. 3. She already held the single season record for service aces (60), the highest service aces per set record (.44) and is third in the program history with 145 career service aces.
Her dominance as a server was already evident. Now, with her 1,000 kills, Stephens has cemented herself as one of the top outside hitters in program history.
“I think it’s pretty cool to see that you put yourself in a pack of really good volleyball players that have come through the Ohio volleyball program,” Stephens said. “It just motivates me and it’s a statistic that shows the work I’ve put in is showing on the other side.”
Stephens’ dominance as a server wouldn’t have come without a change coach Deane Webb and the coaching staff made to Stephens’ serve.
Stephens came to Ohio with a jump topspin serve. That serve, when hit fast enough, drops rapidly in front of the opponent, which makes it difficult to return. Webb, a well-known fan of in-depth analytics, believes that the top spin is at peak efficiency when the ball is hit over 50 mph, which Stephens couldn’t do as a freshman or sophomore.
“If it’s not really high speed, it’s very predictable,“ Webb said. “It’s just the same flight pattern every time so it’s a pretty easy ball to read and pass, at least at higher levels.” Webb said.
So, Stephens switched to the float serve, which has minimum spin and dances through the air like a knuckleball from a baseball pitcher.
Stephens mastered it last season when she broke the single season record with 60 aces, and she hasn’t looked back since.
This season, she has a chance to tie or break her own single season record. She also has a shot of breaking Jamie Kosiorek’s career record of 173 service aces. Stephens needs just 28 more aces to tie both records.
“She’s been a jump float server for her entire career, and obviously has been top 20 in the country the last two years in aces per set,” Webb said. “She is someone who strikes the ball well. Now, she has a little more control over that and is off to a great start again this year.”
Stephens’ 32 aces this season have her ranked 11th in the country, and she is 25th nationally in aces per set.
The outside hitter also has made her mark defensively. She is just 161 digs shy of reaching 1,000. If she reaches that, she’ll become just the fourth Bobcats’ player to reach 1,000 career kills and digs.
After this season, Stephens won’t show up on the box score for Ohio. She will, however, be in the record books for a long time.