[Max Mingay | WOUB]

Ohio comes up short in a five set battle against Buffalo

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The dictionary defines “thriller,” as “a very exciting contest or experience.” On Friday night Ohio and Buffalo’s five set match lived up to this definition.  

Coming in, both teams had 10 wins to their name. As of late the Bobcats have been a bit streaky in their performances, neither winning nor losing more than two games in a row. The Bulls, however, were in desperate need of a confidence booster having lost seven of their last nine games.  

Throughout all five sets both teams kept the game extremely competitive, with a total of 29 ties and 17 lead changes. Despite the valiant effort by Ohio, Buffalo left the Convo with an edge in the win column.  

The first set established how the game was going to be played: lots of offense conjoined with a fierce battle at the net.  

Similar to most matches the Bobcats play, the focal point was getting outside hitters Olivia Margolies and Lauren Park involved and they did just that. Park was electric in set one. From the outside hitter position she continuously was able to find the seams in the Buffalo defense. Averaging 2.98 kills per set, Margolies’ dominance was on full display Friday evening. But the duo could only do so much when the ball doesn’t reach their side of the court. Of the 56 points scored in set one, 13 came off missed serves, a game high. In the end, Ohio prevailed, taking the set 29-27.  

Ohio head coach Geoff Carlston saw how Buffalo fought in the second set.  

“Buffalo competed really hard and that was the difference,” Carlston said. “They played really well and competed and took big swings.”  

Ohio looked like a completely different team in the loss in set two. Every dig, set, and especially kill, was vicious. Undoubtedly the second set was Buffalo’s best, but Ohio’s performance made it look even better.  

It was nearly impossible for Ohio’s offense to get in system and create hitting lanes. Sloppy passes and inaccurate sets pegged the Bobcats as they finally fell 25-19 after a late 8-2 Bulls run.  

After a disappointing performance in the previous set, Carlston decided to bring in some experience to the outside hitter position. Graduate student Kristy Frank hopped into the Bobcats lineup for set three and her explosive hitting style proved well for the team. For the first time all evening, Ohio played at a level of high energy and pure passion. After every point, won or lost, Ohio huddled up, regrouped, and got ready to win the next. They kept on that routine en route to a 25-22 win.  

But again, the team was unable to hold the set lead. A good portion of Buffalo’s points in the fourth set came from fifth-year Cali Assaley’s lethal crosscourt kill. Her effective method of driving the ball down into the Bobcat’s defense proved too much for Ohio, as Carlston and libero Sam Steele recognized the threat.  

“We need to block better there,” Steele said.” But I also think we need to be able to read that better as defenders. After they do it a couple times, we need to be better off blocker.”  

Carlston noticed a similar aspect.  

“They ran the serve and pass game,” Carlston said. “It’s not just the swing, it’s the block, it’s the serving.” 

At one point, Buffalo was up 18-11 and by then the fifth set was imminent. Even after Margolies and her teammates rallied back to cut the lead to three, Buffalo forced the deciding set.  

It was first to 15 and every point mattered. Ohio brought out all the weapons to try and stop the elusive Buffalo attack, but in the end the Bulls came away with the win. Margolies played almost otherworldly, registering three kills in the early stages of the set. However, a 5-1 in the latter half was enough to put away Ohio and put an end to a terrific night of volleyball.  

The thriller ended in disappointment for Ohio, but it will get its chance at revenge on Saturday. Start time for the Bobcats second match with the Bulls is set for 4 p.m.