Though he bears only a minimal resemblance to Gabe Kaplan, Geoff Carlston will not have Vinnie Barbarino, Juan Epstein, or Arnold Horshack for his “Welcome Back” tour in the Convo this volleyball season.

Carlston easily qualifies for legendary status in the annals of Ohio volleyball and will take the Bobcat reins once again. “This was both a complex and simple decision to return to coaching and Athens. This is a great community, a good opportunity to coach, and a good choice for my family. Sara and I have three boys now and they will get a chance to share in the caring and support Athens and OU have to offer.”

With his history of victory skeins and tournament triumphs in the background, Carlston is aware of the promise that reputation might generate. But he is quick to point out that, considering the abbreviated Covid season, the 2021 version of the Bobcats will be a work in progress.

“Our younger players really didn’t get to experience out-of-conference road trips so this will be new turf for them. Add in the coaching change timing and the first month of the season on the road, we’ll see adjustments on the fly.”

In fact, the first time he got to see his squad on the court was less than two weeks ago. But assistant Rodnei Santos returns to the courtside to provide a sense of continuity. “He’s been great and we have Amanda Peterson to help as well as former Bobcat Laura Hagemen.”

The Bobcats will have some seasoned veterans ready to lead, particularly seniors Maggie “Thunder” Nedoma, Emily Walsh, Virginia Natale, and Ila Angermeier. The shortened, MAC-only winter schedule saw considerable strong play from underclassmen Sam Steele, Olivia and Emily Margolies, Caitlin O’Farrell, Ciara Livingway, and Parker Kwiatowski. Returnees Ashton Webb, Tria McLean, Elizabeth Hoerlein, and Maci Watrous added significant minutes to the rotations.

Carlston will be blending in a solid freshman class of Camile Libert, Makenna Schafer, Caroline Clippard, and Alexander product Karsyn Raines.

“At this early stage, we have eighteen kids on the active roster (stalwarts Lauren Park and Dahlias Bouyer will be unavailable due to injury) which means we have numbers but have to develop depth, particularly in the middle. That translates to competition to get into the rotations.”

He sees promise in his team, especially in their work ethic, coherence, and ability to adapt to coaching.

“I have always stressed getting the culture of the program to certain levels and this group buys into that philosophy. We’ve had a retreat to get to know each other and I am so impressed by not only their hard work, but their willingness to learn, to be open and trusting. It really has been fun to coach them and I consider it an honor to do so.”

The first opportunity to welcome back Kotter……, Carlston,…... will be this Friday in the Convo at 7 p.m. for the annual Green and White scrimmage.

“I still have a lot of fond memories of community members and I hope we can have them attend on Friday night,” Carlston commented.

The ‘Cats will also have an exhibition on Saturday at 2 p.m.. Both will be free and open to the public.

After about a month on the road with a brutal schedule in a number of tough weekend tournaments, Ohio volleyball’s first home match will be Friday, September 24 starting the MAC season against Toledo.

“We’ll be developing as we go, getting the pieces together. We could surprise some people along the way and we’ll most definitely be working hard.”

Given the nature of the man, an avid skier and mountain biker, most of those who remember him expect nothing less.

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