Ohio's (20-12, 13-5 Mid-American Conference) season has officially come to an end after a loss in the second round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship to Xavier (21-11, 11-7 Big East).
The Bobcats took the first big swing in the match when they stormed in front with four straight points to go up 11-7 in the first set. Anna Kharchynska had two kills in the Bobcats' scoring run. The Musketeers responded and were able to cut the Bobcat lead to two, but Caroline Clippard led the Bobcats on another scoring run with back-to-back kills. The Musketeers again answered, but the Bobcats put the first set away with seven straight points. Kristy Frank had three kills in the Bobcats' 7-0 run, and Elizabeth Hoerlein contributed with two kills.
The Bobcats looked like they picked up right were they left off in set one when they got out to a 7-5 lead in set two. The Musketeers showed that they had no plans of going down easy, they took charge of the second set with a 5-1 scoring run to take a 14-11 lead. The Bobcats defense struggled, and they couldn't piece together the scoring runs that were key to the first set victory. Caitlin O'Farrell still gave the Bobcats a chance to win the second set with a kill and service ace on back-to-back plays, but the Musketeers took the suspense out of the second set when they scored five of the last eight points.
The third set started out close again, but like the second set, the Bobcats' defense struggled and the Musketeers were able to open up a sizable lead. The Bobcats' offensive attack was sloppy, and they committed several errors that helped fuel the Musketeers scoring run. The Bobcats again made things competitive at the end of the set, but the Musketeers were able to step up and seize a 2-1 lead in the match.
The Bobcats had to win the fourth set to keep their NIVC hopes alive, but didn't play with the urgency they needed to get out on the right foot. Instead the Musketeers forced the Bobcats to play from behind in yet another set, scoring 9 of the first 14 points in the set. Kharchynska had two kills in three plays to give the Bobcats a pulse, but just when the Bobcats looked like they had life, the Musketeers scored four straight points. The Musketeers didn't give the Bobcats a chance the rest of the way. Olivia Margolies had the Bobcats' final kill of the season to make the score 23-17, but the Musketeers scored the final two points of the match.
O'Farrell talked about how it was tough for the Bobcats to get back the momentum after they lost it.
"I just feel like our energy just wasn't there," O'Farrell said. "... I feel like we were just a step behind more than anything else, and we just couldn't get it back."
Frank had a team high 13 kills, and Kharchynska was right behind her with 10. Sam Steele led the Bobcats defensively with 18 digs, while Maci Watrous and Olivia Margolies both went for 13 digs.
The Bobcats' season ended on a sour note, but almost all seasons do. Ohio Coach Geoff Carlston said his team had a lot to be proud of for what they did this season.
"I'm just proud of our team, proud of our season, and proud of our seniors," Carlston said. "You know 16 months ago we were picked ninth in our conference, and we finished third, we doubled our wins this year, we made it to the postseason for the first time in seven or eight years."
O'Farrell echoed the same message as her coach.
"I'm extremely proud we won tons more games than we did last year," O'Farrell said. "Especially coming from our last pre-season, which was like 0-11, or 1-11. So just coming from that, and then coming on to this season, we didn't necessarily get as far in the MAC Tournament, but I think we definitely had more of a banner year than we did last year. And I just see us moving up from here."