Updated Thu, Oct 20, 2011 6:55 pm
Ohio volleyball faces perhaps its biggest test of the season so far, just in time for midterms.
After an up and down homecoming weekend, Ohio continues its tour through the MAC West with perhaps its toughest road trip of the year. The Bobcats will travel to take on Western Michigan (16-5, 6-2 MAC) and Northern Illinois (17-5, 6-2 MAC) in back to back days.
As if the two-day, 10-hour bus trip wasn’t enough, both of Ohio’s opponents are tied for second place in the MAC West. However, head coach Ryan Theis isn’t concerned about a sluggish performance against quality competition.
“The opponents being as strong as they are should motivate us enough,” he said.
The Bobcats will certainly have their hands full on Friday with Western Michigan.
In recent years, the Broncos have had Ohio’s number, having not lost a match against the Bobcats since 2007. A win against Western is perhaps the only thing missing from Ohio standout Katie Post’s lengthy résumé.
“We need it,” she said. “So far since I’ve been here we haven’t won against them in the regular season. To get at least one before I leave would be a great accomplishment.”
To get a win against the Broncos, Ohio will have to find a way to score on one of the stingiest defenses in the MAC. Western Michigan is averaging 19 digs per set, led by Lena Oliver, owner of four MAC West Defensive Player of the Week awards and a National Defensive Player of the Week award.
“We’re going to have to find any opening they gives; they don’t give much,” Theis said. “Controlling the first touch will obviously be the most important part if we want the chance to beat them.”
After Friday night’s match, the Bobcats jump right back on the bus and travel to Northern Illinois to take on the Huskies, led by reigning MAC Player of the Year Lauren Wicinski. The sophomore is averaging 5.62 kills per set, which leads the nation, and has been named MAC West Offensive Player of the Week twice in 2011.
“You just have to try and maintain her,” Theis said. “She’s not going to make many mistakes. If they dig you, then she has the chance to kill the ball. The best defensive in this case is a good offense.”
“Hopefully we can get some touches on her,” Post said. “Her block is pretty good.”
This may not be the last time Ohio will see these teams. Both Western Michigan and Northern Illinois consistently make deep runs in the MAC Tournament, and this weekend will definitely point to where the Bobcats are at on their quest to repeat as tournament champs.
“Both of these games are pretty tough,” Post said. “We’ll get to know what they do and use that going into the post-season.”
“You never know who you’re going to see [in the MAC Tournament],” Theis added. “The level these guys bring this weekend is extremely high and its going to make us better. We need to keep getting better. If there is one thing we know as a group it’s that we’ve got room to improve.”
You know what they say: to be the best, you need to beat the best.