Expectations High for Young, Improving Team

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After enduring an extremely difficult non-conference schedule, the Ohio University volleyball team has stepped up its game. The Lady Bobcats wrapped up the first quarter of their Mid-American Conference schedule with a win over Eastern Michigan in straight sets. With their third consecutive victory in straight sets, Ohio improved its conference record to 3-1, good enough for a tie for second place in the MAC standings.

And yet, Ohio head coach Ryan Theis thinks his team can do better. His grade of the Bobcats play in the MAC thus far:

“B-minus, maybe C.”

Theis’ grading curve might seem harsh, but the coach that has led Ohio volleyball to four consecutive MAC-East Division Championships and three conference tournament championships in a row has set the bar high.

“I like the three 3-0 victories, but in each of those victories, we’ve had one bad set, Theis said. “In the loss (against Bowling Green in the conference opener) I thought we had three bad sets. So, our set record is 9-3, but we’re more like 6-6 in terms of good sets played.”

While there is a lot to like about the skill of this season’s volleyball team, it has been lacking in one crucial category: consistency.   

In an early-season interview with Theis, the head coach said that his squad is “A very good skill team. We pass well, we block well, we defend well, we serve well…but we don’t kill a ton of balls, and if we can’t score 20 points, we certainly can’t give any away and commit errors.”

Ten games and seven wins later, Theis’ perception of his team is noticeably different.

“I think we are getting better at killing it,” Theis said, “We still are a little higher in errors, but if you kill it enough you kind of make up for it.”

Since the beginning of conference play, Ohio has indeed improved in the offensive category of kills; it ranks third out of 12 MAC teams, averaging nearly 15 per set. But the ‘Cats are simultaneously averaging about 5.5 errors per set, the seventh-lowest average in the MAC. Ohio also ranks first in digs, seventh in aces, second in blocks, and fourth in assists.

Through four games, the Lady Bobcats are all over the statistical landscape of the Mid-American Conference, and this is the area of concern for Theis. At this point, it is hard to tell where the team ranks among its competitors.

Despite this uncertainty and despite the fact that Ohio has already lost to unbeaten Bowling Green, Theis is confident that the consistency that he is searching for will come around and that the Lady Bobcats will be able to raise another championship banner—or two—to the rafters of the Convocation Center.

“I think that our fifth gear is as high as anybody’s when we get rolling,” Theis said, “In the end, normally it gets sorted out that the most consistent team ends up about 14-2 or 13-3 and they are the regular season champs. When we can kick it into that fifth gear and keep it there for a series of games, we’re going to be a pretty good team.”