Check out the video above for highlights from Ohio volleyball's four-set win over Western Michigan on March 19, 2021, brought to you by WOUB Bobcat Sports Showcase reporter Nick Henthorn.

Ohio Volleyball: Bobcats Defeat Red-Hot Western Michigan, Win Third-Straight Match

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Just saying Ohio won its third match in a row does not do the story justice for what the Bobcats accomplished on Friday night. As previously reported, the team was injury stricken and had to cope with a demanding schedule, but it then had to face a new challenge: defeating the Western Michigan Broncos.

The Broncos have become a juggernaut in the MAC this year, leading the conference in hit percentage, kills, and assists per set. They have only had three losses this season and came into the Convo riding on a seven-game winning streak.

“Western Michigan in my opinion has been the most dominant team in the MAC the last month,” Ohio head coach Deanne Webb said.  “The last five matches they’ve [only] lost one set.”

It had to take a collective effort of excellence from the Bobcats to derail the Broncos’ momentum, and Ohio did just that.

Ohio's Tia Jimerson (15) goes up for a spike in the Bobcats' match against Western Michigan on Friday, March 19, 2021. (Photo: Curtis Feder/WOUB)
Ohio’s Tia Jimerson (15) goes up for a spike in the Bobcats’ match against Western Michigan on Friday, March 19, 2021. (Photo: Curtis Feder/WOUB)

In the first set, Caitlyn O’Farrell, Tia Jimerson, and Mariana Rodrigues became a three-headed hydra combining for 14 kills. Those three would contribute 45 out of Ohio’s 61 kills in the match. The set was a close one, but the Bobcats pulled away when needed to secure a 1-0 advantage, winning it 25-22.

In the second set, Western Michigan amped up their aggression and Ohio could not keep up, as the Broncos stormed out of the gate on an 11-4 run. Despite saving four set points, the Bobcats were never within striking distance losing the set 25-20.

While Rodrigues and O’Farrell were still sending missiles for spikes, some unsung heroes entered the fold to help Ohio’s cause in the third set. Senior Vera Giacomazzi had what coach Webb called her best passing game of the season, and also had an additional three kills via sneaky tip overs catching the opposition off guard.

While the Italian setter may be more well known for her contributions to the team, a new player who entered the mix made an impact of her own.

Freshman Elizabeth Hoerlein came in to play only her second game of the season in the third set.  She became a major influence on defense as a blocker, and she also picked up three kills on the offensive side as well. Coach Webb gave her high praise of her performance that showed up beyond statistical measurement.

“She had eight of what we call ‘positive touches’ that slowed down balls for us to turn into digs. [Western Michigan] attacks so aggressively that if she did not slow those balls down, they would have turned into kills. That won’t show up on the stat sheet, but it was huge.”

The Bobcats ended up taking the third set via the same margin as the first 25-22, placing them one set away from snapping the Broncos’ streak. Ohio had to remain focused to close out the match, despite Western Michigan’s efforts outside of the court…

Throughout the match, the bench of Western Michigan used many unorthodox methods to either boost morale in their team, mess up Ohio, or both. Anywhere from shouting “Yee haw!” during Bobcat serves to having limbo competitions and fashion shows during timeouts were fair game.

When asked about the Broncos’ antics, Caitlyn O’Farrell gave a simple reply.

“I mean, do whatever you have to do I guess, but that’s never something I would do in front of a crowd of people!”

The intensity of the Bobcats never wavered late in the match, as they made sure that the 4th set would also be the last. Despite a late push from the Broncos, Ohio won the set 25-22, securing the victory and snapping Western Michigan’s seven-game winning streak.

With their win, the Bobcats have started a little streak of their own having won three straight games. Coach Webb believes that something is brewing in the Ohio locker room.

“They’re creating something that’s special… We’re in a good place. I don’t mean in terms of seeding, I mean in terms of confidence, emotion [and] belief.”

Ohio's Tia Jimerson (15) and Mariana Rodrigues (5) leap to block a spike against Western Michigan on Friday, March 19, 2021. (Photo: Curtis Feder/WOUB)
Ohio’s Tia Jimerson (15) and Mariana Rodrigues (5) leap to block a spike against Western Michigan on Friday, March 19, 2021. (Photo: Curtis Feder/WOUB)

After having played 14 sets this week, the Bobcats will hit the court again to finish their two game home series against Western Michigan Saturday at 2 p.m.