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Ohio's Chariti Winzeler (11) serves during the match against Bradley on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022 at the Convo.

Volleyball: Ohio takes two of three in LD & B Insurance Invitational to open season

In its first three matches of the season, Ohio (2-1, 0-0 Mid American Conference) went 2-1 at the LD & B Insurance Invitational, hosted by James Madison. The three opponents were all good tests for Ohio to start the 2023 campaign as all of the teams reached the NCAA Tournament last season. 

The three matches were all very entertaining as the Bobcats were able to neutralize the attacks of some very talented offenses.

Match 1

The first sporting event held in the newly renovated Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was the opening match between Ohio and UMBC (1-2, 0-0 American East,) Ultimately, Ohio fell in a five-set match.

The first set was a prelude for what was to come all afternoon as the teams were locked in a tight battle with a total of eight ties. With the score tied at 20 apiece, the Bobcats scored five straight points to win the first set. 

Set two saw UMBC flip the script on Ohio, taking an early 14-8 lead. However, Ohio was able to rally to tie the match at 15. UMBC, however, called a timeout, regrouped and won the set by a score of 25-21 to tie the match. 

The third set of the day was similar as UMBC jumped out to an early lead, then watched Ohio climb back into the set before ultimately winning 25-21.

However, in the fourth set, it was Ohio who gained the lead. UMBC played catch-up and eventually evened up the score by way of a 7-1 scoring run. Tied at 10 apiece, Ohio then did exactly what UMBC had done in the previous two sets. Ohio went on an 11-2 run to make it 21-12 before winning the set, 25-17, sending the match to the fifth set to determine the victor. 

In the fifth and final set, Ohio continued to jump all over UMBC opening the set with five straight points. Then, UMBC was able to cut the deficit before tying the set at eight. There were seven ties in the set and after the match was tied at 15, UMBC scored two points to put the set and match to bed. 

Match 2

Following the slightly disappointing result in the first match of the season, Ohio played much better in game 2. However, the opponent was not going to get any easier as the host team, James Madison (2-1, 0-0 Sun Belt), is one of the best mid-major squads in the country. Nonetheless, it was Ohio that looked like a team picked to win its conference as it swept James Madison in straight sets to pick up its first win of the season. 

The first set was a close affair. Ohio took an early 3-0 lead and later stretched the advantage to 6-1. However, the teams traded points for a bit and eventually, James Madison brought the score to 13-12, Ohio. The close set continued as Ohio never let James Madison tie the score, always keeping its opponent at arm’s length. Ohio would ultimately win a close first set 25-23.

The second set started out close again as the score was tied at 12 midway through the set. However, Ohio was able to go on a 8-1 run to make it 20-13. From there, Ohio took the set 25-17 to go up by two sets, a huge advantage against a very good team. 

Again, Ohio was off and running with an early lead to begin set three, leading 5-1. However, that is when things tightened up again with James Madison tapping into some of its high-level talent. The teams traded points until the score was 11-10, in favor of Ohio; the tide shifted back in favor of Ohio as it went on to make it 17-12. Unlike the previous set, James Madison did not let Ohio run away with the set, instead battling back to eventually tie the score at 22 and taking a 23-22 lead. Again, the teams traded points to tie the score at 25 until Ohio broke through to score two points and win the set, 27-25, and the match, 3-0.

Caitlin O’Farrell was the star of the show for the Bobcats. Although it takes a team to pull off a win, O’Farrell’s efforts were paramount as she led the team in kills with 13 as well as hitting percentage with a 42% mark. Parker Kwiatkowski paced the Bobcats with 32 assists while Sam Steele had five service aces. Additionally, freshman Torre Kildow had 15.0 points, second on the team behind O’Farrell, who had 15.5.

Match 3

Coming off the rousing win over James Madison, Ohio carried its high-level execution into its final match of the tournament. This match would be against High Point (1-2, 0-0 Big South), the reigning Big South champion. Ohio was able to continue its strong play of the entire weekend to take the match against High Point, 3-1.

The first set was a back-and-forth battle for the first part of the set until High Point used a 4-0 spurt to make it 16-12 and eventually stretched the advantage to 18-13. Ohio would then use a 7-4 run of its own to bring the deficit down to just two and the score to 22-20, High Point. Ohio scored the final five points of the set to win the first set, 25-22.

The second set saw High Point grab an early 10-6 lead before Ohio battled back to make it 14-13, High Point. The teams traded points until High Point scored four straight to make the score 21-16. Ohio did its best to recover, eventually bringing the score to 24-22, but could not complete the comeback, falling in the second set, 25-22. 

Set three was also very close early as the teams both got out to leads before relinquishing them. With the score tied at 17 apiece, Ohio went on a 5-0 run to take a 22-17 lead. That was enough for Ohio to take the set, 25-19. 

In the fourth set, Ohio was looking to win the match. High Point was committed to making it as difficult as possible. Both teams took leads and squandered them as the set was tied eight times. Ohio was able to escape with a 25-23 win to move to 2-1 on the weekend and end on a pair of victories. 

Ohio’s victory, while close at times, should not exactly be surprising when considering the fact that they outhit High Point .306 to .199. Additionally, O’Farrell again led the team in kills with 16. For the second straight match, a freshman contributed for Ohio. Kam Hunt was second on the team with 13 kills. The deep roster for Ohio is going to be a major key moving forward as it moves into MAC play. Regardless, the match against High Point was another masterful one by Kwiatkowski, who led the team with 45 assists. Sam Steele led Ohio with 22 digs on the defensive end. 


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