Story Courtesy of Ohio Media Relations
One of the country's top volleyball programs looks to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for an eighth-consecutive season in 2010, as familiar faces look to replace a senior class that set numerous records and won 111 games over four seasons.
Despite the loss of two-time MAC Player of the Year Ellen Herman, two All-MAC performers in Meghan Simons and Jane Sytsma and 2009 MAC Tournament MVP Sarah Petrulis, the Bobcats are gunning for their seventh MAC tournament and regular-season title in eight years. This year's crop of seniors, Michelle Jantsch, Sue Jacobi and Meryl Bender are accustomed to competing and winning at a high level and they'll make sure that the tradition of excellence continues this season.
There are a handful of underclassmen that also seemed poised to make a jump in 2010 as the Bobcats have more overall depth at certain positions and boats one of the biggest blocking lines in the country with a rotation of six-footers looking to improve on last year's nationally-ranked blocking numbers.
Michelle Jantsch 5-10 Sr. Mission Hills, Kan.
Leah Petrovich 6-0 So. Pittsburgh, Pa.
Jantsch, a two-time All-MAC selection, brings a wealth of experience to the Ohio lineup as its primary distributor of the ball. She played in every set last season and has missed only one over the past two seasons while growing into a force in the service game with an expansive offensive arsenal. Jantsch had five double-doubles for the Bobcats last season, all coming during the final 10 games which included MAC and NCAA Tournament contests.
Sitting in third place on the program's career assists chart entering her final season, Jantsch can break the all-time record if she has a similar season to 2009. The senior also impressed last season with a .383 hitting percentage, tops on the team, and 34 service aces, tied for the most on the squad. Her 96 career service aces place her fifth on the school's rally-scoring career chart.
With her size at the net and ability to put hitters in position to take quality swings, Petrovich will continue to gain experience and learn at the setter position. The athletic, six-foot sophomore, saw action in 10 matches last season and will also serve as an asset in the blocking game for the Bobcats.
Sue Jacobi 6-0 Sr. Louisville, Ky.
Mandy Nichols 6-3 Sr. Greenwood, Ind.
Katie Post 6-3 Jr. Streamwood, Ill.
Marah Farage 6-3 Fr. Medina, Ohio
Lauren Seyllar 6-0 Fr. Bloomington, Ill.
Jacobi emerged last season as a significant point scorer for the Bobcats and finished second on the team in kills and points. A First Team All-MAC selection, Jacobi also finished fourth in the conference with a .334 hitting percentage and tied for eighth in the MAC with 3.22 kills per contest, both during conference play. Down the stretch last season, Jacobi truly excelled and started to emerge as the type of player Coach Theis expects her to be this season for Ohio, recording double-digit kills in 16 of the team's final 19 contests including a career-high 18 in the NCAA Tournament win over Notre Dame.
Nichols gives Ohio the luxury of a 6-3 pin hitter with elite passing skills. Her length also allows her to both swing and block high above the net, which will allow her to play a role in the Bobcats' offensive plans once again this fall from the left or right side. When fully healthy, Nichols is a strong offensive threat for the ‘Cats. She stepped up in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament and provided the team with an offensive spark and in a regular-season match with Bowling Green the Indiana native had a career-high 12 kills and 13.5 points.
Seyller will look to compete for an outside-hitter position and help with ball control. The majority of her points should come from the left side.
Katie Post 6-3 Jr. Streamwood, Ill.
Lexie Hartnett 6-3 R-Fr. Fairport, N.Y.
Marah Farage 6-3 Fr. Medina, Ohio
Liis Kullerkann 6-3 Fr. Keila, Estonia
Last season, the Bobcats led the league in blocks and were one of the top programs nationally, but the loss of Simons and Sytsma has created some question marks. Despite the departures of two outstanding middle blockers, the depth and height at the position return with four players very capable of equaling last season's success.
Post's versatility and imposing blocking presence make the middle blocker position the deepest on the Ohio team yet again. Post's ability gives this young and talented group an entirely new look and her versatility can be witnessed at the net (ninth in the conference with 0.85 blocks per match) and from the service line (seventh in the conference with 0.29 service aces per contest during MAC play). In fact, Post scored 10 or more points during 15 matches and came up big when it mattered most with a career-high 15.5 in the MAC Tournament against Central Michigan.
A player that will provide physical presence in the middle with the ability to hit a heavy ball is Hartnett. After redshirting last season and spending it gaining experience and adjusting to the speed of the collegiate game during practices, she has emerged as one of the top middle blockers for the Bobcats. At the end of the summer schedule, Hartnett was the top blocker on the team and an encouraging sign may be that she is still learning.
Farage is a player still settling into a position and has experience at all three attack positions from her high school and club background while Kullerkann, like Hartnett, is trying to adjust to the pace of collegiate volleyball. Both players also contribute to an already towering frontline with their impressive heights.
Faith Robins 6-0 So. Winston-Salem, N.C.
Ashley Jordan 5-11 So. Frankfort, Ohio
Robins is a right-side attacker who also has the ability to get off the floor quickly and provide a high blocking presence. She will look to fight for a starting spot on the right side and could be this season's player to watch as she has all the natural tools to succeed at this level. Coach Theis looks to see more from her offensively after recording kills in 19 of the 22 matches she played in last season.
A local product with high upside, Jordan will provide depth for the Bobcats on the right side after playing in some contests last season.
Meryl Bender 5-5 Sr. Yorktown, Ind.
Nicole Staverman 5-7 Jr. Edgewood, Ky.
Kelly Colyar 5-8 Fr. Los Gatos, Calif.
Mollie Geske 5-6 Fr. Shakopee, Minn.
Bender's focus on improving makes her the favorite to take over the secondary setting responsibilities with the departure of Petrulis. The senior finished third on the team in assists last year and also recorded double-digit digs on six occasions while seeing action at all three back-row positions. One thing that gets missed on the score sheets but always shows up on the court is Bender's passion. The senior is the clear vocal leader for the program and her energy is contagious on match day.
Staverman brings quickness to the Ohio back row which has allowed her to gain playing time. She has also shown an ability to come through at the service line, leading the team twice during the MAC Tournament in aces. With more playing time, Staverman's ability to chase balls down could propel her to the upper echelon of the conference in terms of dig numbers after recording 10 or more digs in four of the last six contests of 2009.
Colyar and Geske will each provide depth at the position as they learn and grow during their freshmen campaigns. These two will be looked to in the future as key players for the Green & White.
The Green & White will play five NCAA Tournament qualifiers from 2009 during their non-conference schedule and host the Baymont Inn & Suites Invitational which will feature three power-conference programs, Tennessee, Northwestern and Pitt.
MAC play begins on September 23 and eight teams (Kent State, Buffalo, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Miami and Bowling Green) all travel to southeastern Ohio in 2010.
Ohio will conclude the regular season against another top program as Dayton visits on Nov. 26. After the MAC Tournament, Ohio will wait-and-see on their possible qualification into the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Green & White have been selected to NCAA's the last seven years and have advanced to the second round three times during that span.