By Chris Schmidbauer, Sports Information Director
Toledo, OH -- With the final weekend of play in the 2018 regular season, the No. 3 ranked Owens Volleyball team hit the road for the weekend with conference championship aspirations. The Express, who entered weekend play undefeated in OCCAC play, needed to win at least one game to clinch a share of a conference championship or win both to clinch an outright conference championship. It was easier said than done.
On Friday night, the Express had to travel to the Ohio state capital to take on #2 Columbus State on the road. Owens had defeated the Cougars back on September 15, 3-1. Going on the road though was a different story. The Express would win a nail biter of a first set at 25-23 over the Cougars. Owens would get terrific play from Michaela Eisenhauer and Kennedy Ames, who led the Express attack with five and four kills respectively. Owens would pull away from the Cougars in the second and third sets to win 25-12 and 25-16 in the final two games. The Express would get a well rounded attack from the team's front line. Eisenhauer would finish with a team high ten kills while freshman Kara Evers would have nine kills on the evening. Ames kept up her aggressive play, as she would garner eight kills. Summer Sweeting has 19 assists to lead the Express while freshman Kara Schafer had 17 total assists. Kiah Wendel would have seven digs during the match, while Eisenhauer and Ames each had six digs in the match.
Saturday would bring another road test, as the Express would travel to Hocking College. Any concern of a slow start would be quickly set aside, as the Express would crush the Hawks in three straight sets, to win 3-0. Owens only allowed five total points over the three games winning, 25-2, 25-1, 25-2. Owens would let many of their freshman take the reigns of the attack against the Hawks. Carlie Bengela and McKinsey Finnen, who have been solid contributors throughout the season, led the Express with seven and six kills each. Sweeting would be the leader in assists with 23, while Wendel was tops in digs with four during the match.
The straight set win marked the sixth match in a row where the Express swept an opponent. It also marked the 24th time this season that the Express won three straight games against an opponent. Owens now sits at 31-6 overall and they are currently 15-0 in the OCCAC. The win against Hocking College, means that Owens has clinched the outright conference title with one game left to play on the conference schedule. Owens has now won the last four straight OCCAC title, a terrific feat considering that Owens had just three sophomore return this season. With the Express moving to Division III this season, the volleyball program had to rebuild its roster nearly from scratch, after losing six sophomores and having five freshman transfer or decline to return. The team has now won 59 straight games in the OCCAC as well, dating back to the 2015 regular season.
The Express have one more regular season match on the road on Wednesday at Lakeland. The Lakers are 4-17 overall and just 2-7 in the OCCAC. Owens will return home next Saturday for the Regional Championship game. Lorain County and Columbus State will face off at the SHAC at 2 PM, with the winner of that match playing Owens for the regional championship.