Ohio's first postseason match since 2015, excluding Mid-American Conference Tournament matches, couldn't have gone much better.
Ohio (20-11, 13-5 MAC) handled Valparaiso (22-11,9-9 Missouri Valley Conference) in three lopsided sets to advance to the second round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship Tournament.
Early on in the match, it looked like the Bobcats would be in for a long night. The Beacons scored the first four points of the match before the Bobcats answered with their own scoring run. Caroline Clippard and Caitlin O'Farrell had the Bobcats' first kills of the night to tie the set at four.
A kill from Anna Kharchynska and a Beacons attack error gave the Bobcats their first lead of the night. The Bobcats' scoring run didn't stop there. Kills from Kristy Frank and Elizabeth Hoerlein combined with more Beacon attack errors capped an 11-2 scoring run.
The Beacons trimmed the Bobcats lead to three, but Olivia Margolies helped the Bobcats answer back with two-straight kills. The Beacons couldn't pose much of a threat to the Bobcats' lead the rest of the set, and the Bobcats would win set one comfortably 25-19.
Kharchynska and Hoerlein didn't let the Bobcats fall behind to start set two. They combined for back-to-back kills to give the Bobcats a 7-3 lead. Frank added another two kills to increase the Bobcat lead to six.
The Bobcats maintained a comfortable advantage in set two with a 6-1 scoring run. Kharchynska had two kills and was a part of an assisted block in the scoring run. Sam Steele ended set two with a service ace and helped the Bobcats win 25-11.
The Beacons finally were able to take another lead when they got out to a 6-5 lead in set three. However, their lead was short lived. The Bobcats went on a 9-1 scoring run to take a 16-9 lead midway through set three. The Bobcats' defense continued to play well, and they added to their lead. Emily Margolies put the match away 25-17 with a set-wining kill.
Ohio Coach Geoff Carlston was pleased with the confidence Ohio played with Thursday.
"Our team just played pretty steady," Carlston said. "It's the first time they've ever played in the postseason against a pretty good team, so I was happy with the steadiness, and consistency and poise we played with tonight."
Kharchynska led the balanced Bobcat offensive attack with eight kills, and Clippard wasn't far behind with seven. Steele and Olivia Margolies both defended well and served well. Steele had a team-high 14 digs and two service aces. Olivia Margolies had a team-high four service aces and nine digs.
Kharchynska appreciates the opportunity that the NIVC provides.
"We know we missed our opportunity to go to the NCAA (Tournament)," Kharchynska said. "But we won't stop, and we can show how we can play in this tournament."
Right before Ohio's win against Valparaiso, Xavier defeated Central Michigan in three sets. This means Ohio will take on Xavier in the second round of the NIVC Friday with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.
Carlston knows the challenge that the Musketeers present.
"Xavier is a really good team," Carlston said. "So we'll have to play even better than tonight (to win)."