Ohio Volleyball vs Buffalo: Caitlin O'Farrell (12) and Mariana Rodrigues (5) jump to block a hit from Courtney Okwara (12). (Photo: Evann Figueroa/WOUB)
Caitlin O’Farrell (12) and Mariana Rodrigues (5) jump to block a hit from Courtney Okwara (12) in Ohio’s match against Buffalo on February 12, 2021. (Photo: Evann Figueroa/WOUB)

Ohio Volleyball: Bobcats Come from Behind in Second and Third Sets, Sweep Buffalo

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – The Ohio Bobcats (3-2, 3-2 MAC) took to the Convocation Center on Thursday against Buffalo (0-7, 0-7 MAC), sweeping the Bulls 3-0. It was the Bobcats’ first time back on their home court in nearly three weeks, and while the final tally would suggest a dominant home turf defense, the Cats found themselves on the backfoot early and often, as they had to fight their way back from sizeable deficits in the second and third sets.

Ohio was without big-hitting senior Tia Jimerson in the Convo, and the Cats did appear to be missing her on the front row at times. Without her power and length up front, Ohio found themselves having to fight for longer points throughout the match. Jimerson was seen in a walking boot on the team’s bench, but head coach Dean Webb was confident that the injury would only keep her out over the weekend, with no long-term implications.

The first set played out drastically different than the following pair, with the Bobcats blowing by the Bulls 25-15 thanks to a hot start from Mariana Rodrigues and Lauren Park, who had six and four kills in the opening set, respectively. While Ohio made quick work of the first 25, it would be anything but easy sledding for the Cats the remainder of the match.

The second and third sets both required comeback efforts from Ohio, who found themselves down by wide margins deep into either period.

“It was certainly a streaky match, there were times where I don’t know if we were as focused as we needed to be and got ourselves into some pretty big holes that we had to dig out of,” Webb said postgame.

Mariana Rodrigues (5) serves for OHIO in the first set against Buffalo at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio, on February 11, 2021. (Evann Figueroa/WOUB)
Maggie Nedoma (23) spikes over Lexi Nordmann (18). (Evann Figueroa/WOUB)
Dahlias Bouyer (19) spikes over Abby Leigh (5). (Evann Figueroa/WOUB)
Vera Giacomazzi (6), Macy Reihing (18) and Caitlin O'Farrell (12) cheer as OHIO inches closer to a win in the third set. OHIO swept Buffalo, winning the match 3-0 with scores of 25-15, 25-21 and 25-23. (Evann Figueroa/WOUB)

Down 20-15 in the second and 20-13 in the third, Ohio seemed to turn it on when they needed to, and come together as a team at just the right moments.

“At the beginning it was people playing individual roles and not playing as a team,” Macy Reihing said after the victory. “And once we found the groove in that third set- it was more just believing that we could come back instead of looking at the scoreboard and seeing that we were down and just accepting it and saying no, we can still come back from this even though we are down.”

The Bobcats scraped by 25-21 and 25-23 in the second and third sets, and while unforced errors and streaky offense often put Ohio behind the eight-ball, consistent defense, especially from defensive specialist Sam Steele, kept the Cats within range. Steele, recently named the MAC East’s Defensive Player of the Week, was all over the court Thursday. The freshman racked up digs, just as she has all season. Her 20 digs led the team, and gave her team the time they needed to put together successful stretches of offense.

The third set in particular looked as if it would be a turning point for Buffalo, who benefited from miscues and misplaced balls from Ohio early. One such miscue came on a serving error from redshirt freshman Caitlin O’Farrell, who showed some visible frustration with her team down in the set.

“I was not doing the best in the beginning of that third set, a lot of balls were going right through my hands and then I miss a serve so I was really in my head,” O’Farrell said. “And I just had to walk back and say “Well I can handle this two different ways- I can be angry about it, or I can say you know what I’m just going to go in there and get kills, get some blocks- just forget about all that and go onto the next point and be better.””

The shift in mindset paid off for O’Farrell, who caught fire late in the third. Scoring seven of her team’s last 14 points, the Georgia native lit up the Bulls, especially from the right side, and earned praise from her coach.

She [O’Farrell] just grew up a lot tonight,” Webb said. “First half of the match, she was good, her hitting percentage was good but her volume was low, she wasn’t really impacting the match but late in the match she really took over.”

O’Farrell finished with ten kills in a match where the Bobcats got productivity across the roster. Rodrigues led the team with 16 kills, Park totaled nine, and Maggie Nedoma finished with five. Meanwhile, Vera Giacomazzi set up many of her teammates’ spike attacks, finishing with an impressive 16 assists. Only six players logged a kill for the Bobcats, as opposed to ten for Buffalo. Regardless of how they got it done, Ohio sent their opponents home early with the sweep, in a game that these young Bobcats can feel proud about.

“I would shout out the freshmen,” Reihing said of her teammates’ performances. “They are coming into those roles so much better, you see them every single week just working to be a little more aggressive, be a little more of a leader, with Kaitlin tonight just working better in transition in that third set, and they’ve done a really good job of growing up and being on this team and being leaders.”