The Otterbein women’s volleyball team has its eyes set on back-to-back Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) championships, despite a slow start.
The Cardinals haven’t quite had the start they’d hoped for. Through their first 15 games they stand at 8-7. This marks their worst start since the 2015 season.
Part of this shaky start contributes to the fact that the two of the best players in program history graduated last year.
“We've lost some key players last year, but we have a team of experienced players who know what it takes to be successful” said senior setter Kailey Mishler. “Going forward in conference play, we feel confident that we have the right pieces to improve and be successful,” she said.
Although the record doesn't look impressive, they have had a challenging schedule. They've faced off against several nationally ranked opponents, including No. 14 Washington-St. Louis, No. 6 Hope, No. 14 Berry, No. 17 Transylvania, and No. 19 Mount St. Joseph.
Since starting 0-4 the Cardinals have won eight out of the last 11 games and look to carry this momentum into conference play. With wins over historically good programs such as Wittenberg, Centre, and Mount St. Joseph.
"'We've had a lot of opportunities to play some really great teams. We're really focused on using every opportunity to play these opponents and improve on the skills we've worked on in practice,” said Mishler.
Mishler helped lead the Cardinals past nationally ranked Mount St. Joseph who was previously 11-0. She posted a season high 27 assists in the win.
“Looking ahead, we're really focused on improving as a team with every opportunity we have," said Mishler. "Of course, as a team we have the long-term goal of being OAC regular season champs, and tournament champs, but we really work to focus and take it one game at a time.”
Otterbein was picked to finish first in the OAC preseason coaches poll, with six first place votes beating out Marietta's four. However Marietta won’t be the only tough conference opponent with Ohio Northern coming in at No. 25 in the AVCA NCAA Division III volleyball week 4 poll.
“Marietta is going to be tough this year and that game I'm excited for,” said sophomore outside hitter Kayla Lechnir.
Lechnir missed over half of the season due to an injury last season, and is looking to have a bigger role this year. She played a role in Otterbein's victory against Birmingham Southern, which kicked off a three win weekend at the Centre College invitational.
The Cardinals look to keep building on this recent momentum in order to bring home another OAC championship this year.
[Editor's Note: The headline and subhead for this story have been changed and updated.]