In her freshman season, Tria McLean played in just six matches and served a backseat role for Ohio. Her sophomore season, however, was a different story. McLean is playing a more prominent role as Ohio’s setter and has been named the Mid-American Conference East Division Setter of the Week three times in the same season.
The journey hasn’t been easy for the sophomore. Despite her limited playing time in the 2020 season, she viewed it as a major turning point in her playing career.
“Last year was great,“ McLean said. “From last year to this year I think my volleyball IQ has improved significantly, along with my technique.”
McLean was able to use her freshman season as a sort of transition year. She was able to continue developing as a player and made the most of the transition to prepare herself for this season. As soon as the 2021 season began, McLean earned regular playing time as a starter. The sophomore believes that the experience she gained from these regular appearances on the court was key to her development.
“The beginning of the year feels like two years ago,“ McLean said. “I feel like I have been playing for four years now. All that experience has completely changed how I play, and it has definitely improved my confidence. Every single time I play, I learn something new. From the beginning of the year to now, I feel like a whole different person just from the experience I've gained.”
McLean’s rapid development started to show up on the court immediately. In Ohio’s match against Northern Kentucky on Aug. 28, McLean recorded 52 assists. The sophomore continued to improve as the season wore on, and she soon found herself in a leadership role. During an away series against Buffalo, Ohio shifted to a 5-1 offense. This meant McLean became Ohio’s lone setter, as well as de facto leader, on the court.
“I was a little nervous at first, but it was a good nervous,“ McLean said. “I was super excited for the opportunity. I like being on the court the whole time. It just keeps me focused and it’s fun being on the court, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The change proved an instant success for both the Bobcats and McLean. The Bobcats dropped only one set to the Bulls in the series, and McLean totaled 89 assists over both matches. She earned her first MAC East Setter of the Week award for the performance as well.
But McLean’s success didn’t stop there.
The sophomore recorded 40 or more assists in 10 of her next 12 matches, and surpassed 50 assists in five of those matches. She set a career high for the statistic in mid-November, when she recorded 56 assists in a match against Bowling Green.
She also earned her next two MAC East Setter of the Week awards in quick succession following her performance against Buffalo. She earned her second award after recording 88 assists and 20 digs in two matches. Her third award came after posting 105 assists in Ohio’s series against Miami.
The only surprise for McLean has been how quickly she’s found her success.
“I just didn’t expect it this year,“ McLean said. “I thought maybe next year or something, I just didn’t expect it this soon.”
Like any great leader, McLean is quick to thank her teammates for her success.
“It means a lot to me, especially because my teammates all helped me earn it,“ McLean said. “It wasn’t all me. I couldn’t do my job without them.”
McLean’s success has come to her quickly. She never saw much time on the court in her freshman season, but she has evolved into one of the key players on Ohio’s roster this year.
It wasn’t an easy journey, but success has come quicker than McLean ever expected.