This week, Ohio (5-7) traveled to Ames, Iowa, for the Cyclone Invitational to take on Drake, Iowa State, and UCSB.
Ohio looked to start the week strong with a win against Drake and it started with an incredible first set. At one point, Ohio was trailing 24-20 in set one but rallied with a five-point scoring run led by sophomore Anna Kharchynska. Kharchynksa was crucial for the Bobcats in the rally with two kills and a block for the final three points in the rally to help take back the lead 25-24, and it was back and forth from there until junior Caroline Clippard had three straight kills to take the first set from Drake 31-29 in exhilarating fashion.
Flipping the script, Ohio started strong in the second set and didn’t need an incredible rally to get the lead and constantly kept a two-to-three-point cushion, at one point led 14-9, but Drake clawed back with the help of a few aces on their part and costly errors on Ohio’s part to take another 24-20 lead. Unfortunately for Ohio, Drake put it away one point later behind a kill from Haley Bush as Drake took the second set 25-20.
The Bobcats stormed out to a quick 6-1 lead in the third set led by the serving of Sam Steele and amazing defense from Kharchynska and O’Farrell with two blocks to set the early tempo of the set. After a Drake timeout, it was Ohio who was on the wrong side of a run due to many attacking errors that helped Drake put itself ahead 9-7. From that point, no team could separate themselves from the other as Ohio, now trailing, wasn’t falling out of it. With the help of O’Farrell, Ohio tied the game at 17 yet it was Drake, led by Bush and Taylor Oberpriller, that broke away from Ohio winning the third set 25-20 yet again.
Another barn burner was in the works as neither team could separate themselves from the other. However, a kill from freshman Kam Hunt when the score was tied at 13 was the spark that Ohio needed as it wouldn’t lose the lead for the rest of the set with O’Farrell and Hunt leading the way with five and four kills, respectively. One final kill from Hunt helped Ohio put the fourth set away with a score of 25-20.
The fifth and final set saw Ohio take an early lead with two kills from O’Farrell. However, Ohio made several consecutive mistakes and was trailing 7-3 in a 15-point set, and Ohio could never catch up at that point as Drake, led by Oberpriller, took the fifth and deciding set 15-10.
Ohio’s downfall was its inability to find an answer for Oberpriller, who had 26 kills, which led both teams. O’Farrell led the Bobcats with 23 kills while senior Steele led both teams with an astounding 28 digs.
Ohio’s path to victory would only get tougher as they had to take on a top-25 opponent in Iowa State, a win that would have been a statement not only for the weekend but the entire season.
Iowa State quickly showed why they are recognized as a top-25 team in the nation by quickly putting up a 7-1 lead, but Ohio never stopped fighting and with the help of Caitlin O’Farrell, it clawed back to make it 11-13. Iowa State extended its lead further with a four-point scoring run to make it 17-11. Nevertheless, Ohio, staying true to its nature, scored the next 10 out of 13 to take the lead 21-20 with serve, unfortunately for Ohio, Iowa State turned up the intensity and prevailed with two kills from Lily Wachholz to win 25-23.
Things wouldn’t fare much better over the next set as Iowa State scored the first 6 points right off the bat. Ohio answered with its run led by O’Farrell, Clippard, and senior Elizabeth Hoerlien to trail by only one point at 14-15. However, it was Iowa State’s turn to score 10 of the next 13, which ended up being the final 13 points as Iowa State triumphed 25-17.
In a must-win set, Ohio started off keeping pace with Iowa State at a respectable score of 7-8. From there, Iowa State took command and never looked back with an onslaught of kills and aces that helped propel them, and with two final attack errors by Clippard, Iowa State swept Ohio with a final score of 25-13. Clippard led the way for the Bobcats with 10 kills, the only player on the team with double-digit kills, O’Farrell added on with 9 kills and 2 aces while Steele led the Bobcats on the defensive side with 11 digs.
If Ohio wanted to leave Ames with a win, it had to buckle down and take down UCSB. Ohio’s match started with an incredible first set that was piloted by Kharchynska and Clippard, who had most of Ohio’s kills throughout the set. Even so, USCB, led by Briana McKnight, and a crucial five-point run, set the lead at 19-12. Ohio tried its best to storm back to win but it was futile. Even though Caitlin O’Farrell put up two kills in crunch time to lower the deficit to one at 22-23, two attack errors from Kharchynska were the nails in the coffin for Ohio’s first set, losing 25-23.
Falling two sets was not in Ohio’s plan, as Kharchynska and Clippard helped set the tone for set two when Ohio was trailing 9-6 and later on 18-17, spearheading five- and four-point rallies, respectively. One final kill from Clippard sealed the deal on a 25-21 victory for the Bobcats.
One set later, UCSB and McKnight dominated the majority of the set with the help of two straight aces from McKnight and plenty of attacking errors on Ohio’s side. UCSB found itself up 19-5 and even after a decent effort from Ohio, USCB won 25-13.
Setting the tone has been something Ohio struggled with over the weekend and it reared its ugly head once more. UCSB started strong with the assistance of a McKnight ace and a good deal of kills which put the set at 14-8. Freshman Kendall Hickey stepped up with an ace that started the Bobcats' final stand; Kharchynska also stood tall with a remarkable six kills throughout the set which helped the Bobcats come as close as trailing 14-17. Unfortunately for Ohio, it wasn’t quite enough to stop USCB. Errors and strong play from McKnight doomed the Bobcats as USCB took the concluding set 25-19. Some good to come out of this game was Kharchynska putting up an outstanding 18 kills, one shy of her season-high, which led both teams. Sam Steele put up 18 digs to help contribute on the defensive side.
Although the Bobcats didn't prevail in any of their three contests, there is much they can hold their heads high about, such as the resilience the team showed to situations that seemed out of control.