Good things come to those who wait, and this season has been worth the wait for Caitlin O’Farrell.
The redshirt freshman came to Ohio last fall but did not compete in any matches for the Bobcats. Now that she finally has the chance to play, O’Farrell has been a go-to in the front row for the Bobcats.
“It’s a crazy experience,” O’Farrell said. “I got to watch from the side for a whole year. I didn’t even dress; it was like I was one of the managers, honestly.”
The time she spent off the court was valuable though. Getting to watch the likes of Tia Jimerson helped her to learn how to navigate the ups and downs of a match. However, Jimerson and O’Farrell’s relationship goes back to their home state of Georgia.
Both are natives of Gwinnett County, where O’Farrell was the 2018 Gwinnett County Player of the Year. Although they did not attend the same high school, the two were still connected through club volleyball where Jimerson was teammates with O’Farrell’s sister, Shea, on the Ga5 club volleyball team.
Having already known someone on the team heading into her first season on the court made the transition to a new team easier for the young player. It also helped that they are both middle blockers. O’Farrell herself had never played with Jimerson but found that it was easier for her to talk to her.
Having this relationship has been helpful in developing her skill sets as well as her on-court maturity. O’Farrell has been able to work closely with someone who understands the extra responsibilities of being in the front row. As middle blockers, the two are responsible for helping defend attacks while also sending attacks to the other side.
“Since she’s in my position (group), it kind of gave me somebody to look up to,” O’Farrell said.
Jimerson has three full seasons in the Mid-American Conference under her belt and knows a thing or two about her opponents. Having picked up several accolades along the way, her knowledge is valuable to the young rookie.
O’Farrell is quickly starting to take after Jimerson, too. Currently, both blockers have 33 total blocks this season. The redshirt freshman, however, nudges out the senior for most block assists with 28 to the senior’s 25. Hitting wise, O’Farrell once again takes the crown with 98 kills to Jimerson’s 93.
Her statistics are not only making waves in the Bobcats’ eyes, but also in those of the conference, too. Like Jimerson, O’Farrell has taken the MAC by storm in her first season. Her .368 hitting percentage is the second-highest in the MAC. It is also the highest on the team with a minimum of three sets played.
“I try not to think about what’s on the other side and just hit what I see,” O’Farrell said.
O’Farrell has been seeing well lately. In the series against Ball State, she collected 25 total kills and hit above .400 in both matches. She reached a season high 15 kills during the 3-2 loss on March 5, but focused on uplifting her teammates during the difficult match.
This approach will be helpful for O’Farrell and Ohio as the Bobcats enter an unusual week in their schedule starting on March 16.
After the series at Miami on March 12-13, O’Farrell and the Bobcats will have three opponents in four matches in five days. This untraditional week is nothing like the Bobcats have seen this season, and will take both a mental and physical toll. To prepare, they have kept a regular practice schedule and kept lifting in their routine.
O’Farrell likes to focus on the mental side of things as well because this extra dose of games adds a challenge for the student athletes. O’Farrell, a nursing major, banks on the off days to complete her clinicals and labs that she would miss during the week, but she sees the extra games as a learning curve to prepare for the most important part of the season, the MAC Tournament.
Until then, O’Farrell and the middle blockers are going to keep working together to help Ohio earn a few more wins before the tournament.