Theis Moves Past Oregon, Aims For December

By
Avery T. Jennings

Dateline
Updated Tue, Sep 3, 2013 2:07 pm
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Days after one of Ohio Volleyball’s biggest regular season wins in recent memory -- a dominant three-set dismantling of preseason No. 8 Oregon -- head coach Ryan Theis is preaching sustainability.

“We want to be playing in December,” Theis said.

Theis explained that the win against Oregon, while good for morale, doesn’t guarantee anything as far as making the NCAA Tourmament.

“You’re going to get lots of texts and Facebook messages, Instagram, I don’t even know what they do,” he joked. “After we said good job and high fived in the locker room, I said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s not over, I’ve scheduled nine more tough games.’

“They know it’s not over.”

Ohio went 9-0 in sets played at the Oregon Classic and earned 82 points in Monday’s AVCA Coaches Poll, good for 27th in the nation.

Sophomore setter Abby Gilleland was named the Oregon Classic MVP for her 10.22 assists and 1.3 kills per set average during the weekend. She also earned her first career MAC East Offensive Player of the Week award.

“We like her to be aggressive,” Theis said about Gilleland’s 26 attempts. The sophomore flashed signs of improved offensive game, utilizing the second touch to get five kills in the tournament finale against Oregon.

“She’s such a gritty player, she’s so competitive,” Theis continued, listing all of the ways Gilleland can contribute on the floor, from offense to defense to the service game. “She has a really good overall game and that’s one of the reasons we brought her here … she’s your ultimate blue-collar, hard-worker, get-the-job-done setter.”

Sophomore libero Meredith Ashy’s 22 digs also went a long way toward Ohio’s win over the Ducks Saturday night.

“Yeah, she was awesome,” Theis remarked. “We worked a lot in the offseason on her balance, and it was just so much better this preseason. I was so happy during the preseason when she was making these plays, and I thought she would be able come out and have a very good season. She’s been great.”

Ohio boasted its depth over the weekend, playing three freshmen extensively. Outside hitter Katie Horton scored 26 kills and hit .420, making two starts in the tournament. Brooke Coleman and Mallory Salis also played well defensively. Salis showed off some skills in the service game with four aces in the tournament -- three in the opening match against Bryant.

“Young players stepped in and played extremely well,” Theis said. “We thought those kids would contribute throughout the course of the year … We didn’t know if they would play great in their first collegiate matches, but that’s what we’ve seen in practice. Those kids can play.”

Ohio now transitions its focus to this weekend’s Baymont Inn Invitational. The Bobcats will host Cincinnati (0-3), North Carolina (3-0) and Dayton (2-1). The Flyers ranked No. 22 in the preseason AVCA poll, but fell to 35th Monday after dropping a match against Missouri State in their home tournament.

A season ago, Ohio lost matches against both North Carolina and Dayton. The ‘Cats dropped a four-setter in Dayton’s home tournament in 2012 and fell in five sets to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Playing within the friendly confines of the Convocation Center may yield different results this season.

“We love home games,” Theis said. “They love it; they love the fans. There’s nothing like it. I’ve coached in the SEC, the Big Ten, and between our band and our support when we get good crowds, it’s second to none out there.”

Ohio’s home opener is Friday at noon against Cincinnati. The Bobcats play again Friday evening at 7 against North Carolina and wrap up the tournament with Dayton Saturday at 3 p.m.

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