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The five biggest moments in Ohio sports over the last 15 years

Since 1892, when Ohio baseball became the first university-sponsored sports team, the program has been building itself up as a university that deserves to be respected for its athletics. 

Many moments and events have helped bring Ohio to this point, now a staple of mid-major Division I sports due to its success in the Mid-American Conference, with many coming in the last 15 years. Of those moments, here are five of the most influential.

Soccer’s first MAC Championship (2023)

Soccer has been a part of Ohio athletics since 1997, yet in the team’s 26 seasons, it had not claimed a MAC Championship until this past season. 

The team was an underdog entering the postseason, holding just a 2-4-3 conference record entering the final week of play. Ohio not only needed to win out but would have to wait patiently as other teams played out their seasons to even get a bid in the MAC Tournament.

The odds played out in Ohio’s favor, and the team, under coach Aaron Rodgers, would gear up to continue defying those odds. Ohio would open the tournament with a 2-0 victory over No. 3 Ball State and, over the next seven days, would tally wins against No. 2 Bowling Green and No. 4 Kent State, solidifying themselves as MAC Champions for the first time in the program’s history.

Men’s Basketball upsets Virginia in March Madness (2021)

Entering the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the last time the Bobcats had earned a bid was in 2012 behind legendary guard DJ Cooper. Fast forward nine years later and Ohio was coming in to the NCAA Tournament as MAC Champions again, spearheaded by another program great and future NBA draftee, Jason Preston.

Preston’s own story as a basketball player had been making headlines leading up to the team’s first-round matchup against No. 3 Virginia, from averaging 2 points per game in high school to becoming the MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player in his final season.

In a highly-contested matchup, which Ohio entered as the No. 14 seed, Preston would again lead his team to unprecedented success, posting a double-double as Ohio toppled Virginia, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Volleyball wins seventh MAC Championship in eight years (2010)

In perhaps the most dominant stretch from any Ohio sport, volleyball started the 2010s by winning its seventh MAC Championship in eight years. The run started 21 years ago, when Ohio won the 2003 MAC Championship, going 15-1 in the conference. 

That would just be the start, though, as Ohio would rattle off three more championships in the following three years, going a combined 48-0 in conference play and completing the four-peat. The Bobcats would be prevented from winning a fifth consecutive championship by their rival Redhawks in 2007. However, Ohio would rattle off three more in the next three years, losing just 10 conference matchups in that span.

The first four championships were headed by coach Geoff Carlston, who then left to coach Ohio State following the 2007 season. Though Carlston would later return to Ohio, he was replaced with Ryan Theis, who would lead the Bobcats to three conference championships in his first three years with the team. The run still exists as one of the most dominant multi-year stretches in MAC history.

Jeff Boals (2019) and Tim Albin (2021) eras began

The current eras in both men’s basketball and football have been fruitful for the Bobcats, under head coaches Jeff Boals and Tim Albin in their respective sports. 

Boals, a former forward for the Bobcats from 1991 to 1995, followed Saul Phillips as the men’s basketball coach in 2019. The Bobcats were coming off back-to-back seasons going 14-17, combining for 13-23 in conference play. In Boals’ first season, the team hit an immediate turnaround, going 17-15 and making the NCAA Tournament the very next year. To this day, in Ohio’s five seasons with Boals as head coach, the team has never finished lower than fifth in the conference.

For football, while the Albin era has been brief so far, the success has been undeniable. There were growing pains for the team following 16-year coach Frank Solich’s retirement. In Albin’s first year, the team went 3-9 but would quickly put the losing behind it. In 2022 and 2023, Albin led the Bobcats to two bowl-game victories, finishing top-two in the MAC East both years with back-to-back 10 win seasons for the first time in program history.

While both coaching eras have been relatively short, both hires have proven to be successful and will have massive implications on the Bobcats' future.

Baseball wins first MAC Championship since 1997 (2015)

Baseball was the first school-sponsored sport for Ohio, playing its inaugural season over 130 years ago in 1892. Through its long tenure with the university, the team has accrued several conference championships and NCAA tournament appearances; however, all of which came in the span of the 20th century in a 50-year span from 1947 to 1997.

Up until 2015, the Bobcats had not won a MAC Championship since their 1997 victory, nor had they been regular season champions in the MAC. While Ohio finished with just the third-best conference record in 2015, second in the East Division, the team fought its way through the MAC Tournament, avoiding the top-two teams, Central Michigan and Kent State, and winning the long-awaited championship against Ball State.


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