Accuracy at the net has not been Ohio’s strong suit so far this season. Despite this, it has been slowly nudging its hitting percentage up with each match by creating moments when they need them most. This improvement comes from the team’s intensity and overall communication, which the Bobcats have been working on each week and after every match.
Coach Deane Webb has put an emphasis on the distribution of the ball and the ability to place the ball in the right spots of the court. The Bobcats (4-2, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) took note of that in Friday’s 3-0 win against Buffalo.
“I think it was more balanced in our attack today,” Webb said. “A number of players attacked at a high level.”
Middle blocker Caitlin O’Farrell showcased that balance in Friday’s match, hitting .579 with 12 kills in 19 attacks with one error. Outside hitter Mariana Rodrigues was not far behind, hitting .438 with eight kills and one error in 16 attacks.
Ohio also optioned to shuffle around its roster Friday. Redshirt junior Dahlias Bouyer and junior Ila Angermeier were put in against the Bulls. Bouyer had previously played a set in the Jan. 22 match against Central Michigan, while Angermeier had yet to see action before Friday’s match.
Using different combinations of hitters and setters has provided the Bobcats with the balance they’ve needed to make necessary improvements. Ohio has 24 different combinations at its disposal in the front row. This flexibility provides opportunities for the offense that keeping a strict lineup would not.
Rodrigues acknowledges that it has been good to practice with the two different setters when going into matches. The changes have allowed her to get more time to practice her attacking methods and improve her hitting abilities.
Improvement is evident in all the Bobcats, as they have taken them a while to find their groove in the front row. Throughout the first six matches, Ohio has been hitting .222 in 817 attacks with 130 errors. This time last year, the Bobcats were hitting .206 with 307 kills and 132 errors in 849 attacks.
Errors had previously plagued the team. Before Friday’s match, the highest number of errors in a match was 34 against Central Michigan. The Bobcats improved on this number greatly, only committing nine Friday.
So, how have the Bobcats kept improving despite constantly changing the lineup?
Part of the resolution has been amplifying the communication between the players on the court. Improving this has been a constant focus of the team since their first week of matches.
“I would say we’ve just got to keep the intensity up” Sam Steele said. “If we can just keep that going, we can keep our communication.”
Steele has seen first-hand how communicating can keep a volley alive. She finished the match Friday with 18 digs, a season low for her.
Friday showed how much the Bobcats’ communication and distribution skills have improved in just six matches. Players like Rodrigues were able to help aid defensively because there was less of a focus on getting the ball out of their hands, and instead, a laser-focus on effectively returning the ball through hitting.