Ohio Stumbles in Hokie Invitational Opener

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It was a quick loss for Ohio (3-8) as the Radford Highlanders swept them Friday morning (25-23, 25-21, 25-16). The non-conference season has been full of struggles for the Bobcats, and this matchup exposed those struggles heavily.

The most obvious weak link Radford put on full display is how Ohio seems to not be able to compete when senior Mallory Salis does not play well. The team rides on whether she can succeed, and she had only 6 kills, with 5 errors on 27 attempts.

The ‘Cats trailed the entire first set, although they did claw back into the first towards the end with a 6-1 run that pulled them to within two, 21-23. Radford won the set though thanks to a ferocious kill from Mallory McKnight and then an error on Ohio’s Ali Lake.

The second set was much of the same; Radford was very clearly the more intense team from the start as they jumped out to a 12-6 lead. The Bobcats lead only once in the second and only lead once in the third.

On top of that, the energy and concentration of this team continues to be a concern. “We needed a different level of intensity.” coach Deane Webb said. “I don’t know what it was, but we definitely did not come out with the level of focus and intensity that we needed.”

The mental mistakes were on display throughout as the team committed 7 errors per set, which contributed to a lowly .171 team hitting percentage. One bright spot for Ohio was solid play out of setter Stephanie Olman.

Olman in effect seems to have won the setter job and she had 32 assists along with 6 kills. Coach Webb has felt her performance all year has had “better highs, but just worse lows” than Catelyn Burke, but she seems to have found greater consistency. The setter does set the tone for the team, and continued better performance from her could lift some of the burdens off of Mallory Salis’s shoulders.

The Bobcats will look to rebound at 8 p.m. as they take on Virginia Tech in the final game of their Hokie Invitational play.