Ohio will begin its postseason on Thursday against No. 8 seed Kent State at the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Bowling Green. The Bobcats swept the Golden Flashes twice during the regular season, most recently at home on Nov. 7.
Ohio is the No. 5 seed in the tournament and will have to work its way through the bottom half of the tournament. The Bobcats need to win four matches in four days to win the MAC and automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Coach Deane Webb thinks his team can do that.
“I think we have the team to do that. I think we are deep enough to do that,“ Webb said. “I think we’re competitive enough to do that. We’ll find out when we get there if we’re consistent enough to do that.”
The Bobcats found that consistency at home at the end of the season with four-straight wins including three sweeps. Ohio swept Central Michigan in that stretch, who is the No. 2 seed in the tournament. It was only the third time it had been swept this season.
Ohio will rely heavily on its experienced players as it looks to make a tournament run. Lizzie Stephens, who made her return from injury on Saturday, has the most experience on the team and will look to share that with her teammates.
“I think it’s just consistency at this point,” Stephens said. “Because it’s four games in four days, not two games in two days. So, just finding that consistent level of play that we can count on through each game and not being so up and down will be important for us.”
If there is anyone to provide that consistency, it’s Stephens herself. Ohio was up-and-down for much of the season while she was out, but with her on the court, the Bobcats are able to manage their emotions much better.
“There’s that sense of calm that she brings to our team,” Webb said. “She can drive us to be better, while driving us in a very good way. She has a pretty tight emotional range, and she never lets the team get too high or too low, and that’s something that’s really hard to do from the bench.”
There is no doubt that during the team’s huddles between points, Stephens will be keeping the team in check and looking forward to the next point. Ohio will need that to win another four-straight matches.