Katie Nelson spikes the ball against the Akron Zips. (Ben Wielgopolski/WOUB)

Ohio Volleyball: Bobcats Bounce Back with Sweep Over Akron

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Ohio looked to get back to winning ways at home after losing to Buffalo in five sets Friday night. Akron traveled to the Convo looking for their first MAC victory, as they attempted to spoil the Bobcats’ parents weekend.

The Bobcats (8-9, 3-1) were able to end the weekend strong, as they swept the Zips (8-7, 0-4) 25-21, 25-14, 25-22. Akron came into the match winless in conference play, but after back-to-back five set losses, Ohio had to take them seriously and a sweep was impressive. Lizzie Stephens led a balanced Ohio offensive attack with 10 kills and three aces.

“We talked about how Akron has taken some teams to five who are pretty good in our conference, it shows a lot to go out a sweep a team like that,” Stephens said.

Stephens had 1,400 swings last season, but with Katie Nelson and Jaime Kosiorek back healthy, Stephens has been playing in a more all-around role for the Bobcats. Both Stephens and head coach Deane Webb have enjoyed her ability to move around the court.

“Lizzie helping all over the court has been great, when I’m back row I’m focusing on defense and serve receive so Jaime can get the kills,” Stephens said. “Finding the balance of doing everything instead of just hitting a ball.”

“What’s been great this year is that she doesn’t have to take every swing,”Webb said. “She’s been doing a lot better and is feeling much healthier now.”   

Ohio excited after getting a point against Akron. {Ben Wielgopolski/WOUB}

Ohio took advantage of plenty of errors from the attackers for Akron. The Zips had 19 attack errors and 12 service errors in the match. Ohio was able to limit mistakes, as they played much cleaner volleyball than usual.

“We’ve really been focusing on lowering our unforced errors, a few weeks ago that was a real problem for us,”  Webb said. “Today we attacked 100 balls and had two unforced errors, that’s an unbelievable number.”

Ohio started strong, as they took the first set from Akron 25-21. Akron’s downfall was errors, the Zips had seven attacking errors and five service errors in the set. With three first set blocks, Ohio was able to set the tone physically.

The Bobcats dominated the second set en route to beating the Zips 25-14. It was a complete team effort, with 12 Bobcats contributing to the set win. Ohio had 12 kills compared to only two attack errors, hitting an impressive .345. Akron continued to gift points to the Bobcats — the Zips had five attack errors and four service errors. Ohio had three aces in the set, Macy Reihing had two of those aces — she added five digs defensively for the Bobcats.

Ohio took the final set 25-22 to secure the sweep. Stephens had four kills and two aces in the set, Kosiorek also had five kills to finish the match off. Vera Giacomazzi had 12 assists in the set, but was unable to continue her streak of 40-plus assists in the MAC.

Ohio also did an impressive job defensively throughout the match — Akron was held to just one ace. The front row averaged four blocks per set, both huge improvements from the loss on Friday.

“They have one really good server, she came in first in the conference in aces-per-set and slowing her down was a key. I think our team as a whole responded well to that.” Webb said. “As the match went on we didn’t feel really good about our blocking, we created some opportunities in front of Nelson, and with her size we had some success.”

Ohio got some needed momentum before a difficult road trip that begins with huge games against MAC East competitors Miami and Bowling Green.

“We’re looking forward to Miami and Bowling Green on the road this is going to be a really tough road trip.” Webb said. “Obviously two teams that tied for the regular season championship last year and they’re both off to a great start this year.”