The Ohio University girls’ volleyball team celebrate after scoring against Western Michigan on October 22, 2016. (Robert McGraw/WOUB)

Ohio Volleyball Prepares for 2016 MAC Tournament

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The regular season is over and it is time for the Mid-American Conference tournament.

This year the tournament will be held in DeKalb, Illinois, home of the Northern Illinois Huskies.

The Ohio Bobcats have earned the three seed and a bye to the quarterfinals. Their opponent will be the winner of the Kent State and Toledo game, which will be held on Thursday. Ohio’s first game will be on Friday at 8:30p.m. EST.

The past two years, Ohio has earned the double bye to the semifinals, but this year they only have the one bye, to the quarterfinals. However, that could be a good thing.

“In the past we’ve had a double bye which is good and bad I think we’ve seen the good and the bad because playing twice in one weekend is good but at the same time everyone else is starting while you’re waiting around,” senior Brooke Coleman said. “I think the one bye is perfect and being the three seed keeps us on the opposite side of Miami so we wont see them until the finals.”

Avoiding Miami is a key step in trying to repeat as champions. But Coleman and fellow senior Mallory Salis are trying to do something bigger than repeat as tournament champions. They want to complete a four for four, no not the kind you get a Wendy’s. They are trying to win a ring, either the regular season title or conference tournament in four straight years.

“I think earning four rings in your four years here is something that not a lot of people can do or say they’ve done, really very few people [can] which is very exciting,” Coleman said.

Ohio (15-13, 11-5) took on the sixth seeded Toledo Rockets (15-13, 8-8) one time this year. The match was on Oct. 14 in Toledo, where the Rockets won 3-1. During that game, Salis had 23 kills and Jaime Kosiorek had 15. However they did not get much help from the rest of the team, which had 20 total kills. But the main struggles came at service line. Ohio had four aces to 19 service errors.

“It’s a match (against Toledo) that we performed well in several phases but we had a really poor night serving,” head coach Deane Webb said. “That was the week I choose to give our team off in terms of practice so first ball contact was really bad and as I said that week, that’s on me. I made that decision and I’ll live with it.”

The Rockets come into the tournament struggling, having lost its last three matches of the season, including one of them to Buffalo who didn’t qualify for the tournament. However Kent State has won two of their past three matches including being the only team to defeat the regular season champions, the Miami Redhawks, in five sets. Ohio and Kent State played just six days ago. Ohio won both matches against Kent in four sets.

“Obviously we just played them so in some ways that’s good because you have an idea of their personnel but at the same time we expect one of their middles to comeback,” Webb said. “We need to make sure that our team understands that yes we just beat them and we beat them both times this year but they can and will likely be a different team in the conference tournament.”

Should Ohio defeat Kent State or Toledo, they will take on host Northern Illinois on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. EST. The only time Ohio faced Northern Illinois, they dropped a five set thriller. In the match, Ohio had four players set career highs. Stephanie Olman in assists (66), Erica Walker in digs (25), Katie Nelson in aces (four) and Mallory Salis in kills (29).

Ohio knows they can compete against anybody in the tournament but this time around they aren’t the favorite. For the first time since 2002, Ohio is not a top two seed in the tournament, meaning they are the underdog this time.

“It’s new [being the underdog] we’re not used to it,” Ali Lake said. “I think it’s nice, being the underdog because then you’re going to get underestimated but then again Miami did get beaten by Kent so I don’t think anyone will be underestimated in this tournament.”