When asked to describe the art of blocking, Josephine Ough, a UC Davis volleyball player in senior intermediate blocker, took a moment to think about the concept.
Even after all those massive, dynamic boulders she successfully jumped and planted, Ough had to factor in everything she learned from high school through college to present a more meaningful answer.
“It’s about knowing your strengths,” Ough said. “I may not be the fastest middle blocker, but I try to make up for that by reading the game well and getting my hands in a good position that takes the pressure off our defense a bit.”
To this day, Ough still masters her craft, but in doing so, she climbs the UC Davis all-time blocking rankings, surpassing side-out era players along the way.
After collecting three more total blocks against the California Golden Bears last weekend, Ough alone ranks third all-time on this list, passing Candy Lench, who played for the Aggies from 1988-1992.
With a solo block and two assists in the conference opener win over UC Riverside at home on Tuesday, Ough now has 354 total blocks. That takes him 39 total blocks away from reaching second place.
Ough acknowledges the mountain she regularly climbs and hopes that her name and her performance on the field will be part of this team’s legacy in the future.
“It’s really exciting,” Ough said. “It’s so exciting that I keep climbing, and my name will be there for a while.”
Ough started playing volleyball at the age of 13. Ough says it was daunting for her to pursue volleyball at first because she would be following in her aunt and cousin’s footsteps.
However, once she sprinted onto the field for the first time and saw the potential in herself, she immediately fell in love with the sport.
While at El Cerrito High School, Ough took control of his power in front of the net, becoming a three-time All-Tri-County Athletic League first-team selection. She guided her team to an undefeated TCAL record and a league championship when she was just a sophomore.
Ough also played volleyball for Absolute Volleyball Club and began to shape and hone his blocking skills, as well as his attacking ability and impeccable timing.
“Absolute was definitely where my volleyball skills took off,” Ough said. “They trained me very well. Just playing with girls at such a high and much higher level than what I was used to pushed me to become a better volleyball player much faster. .
Ough knew she wanted to continue playing volleyball in college after graduating from El Cerrito High School in 2018. She ultimately chose UC Davis and the choice was a clear decision in her mind.
“I really only had eyes for UC Davis,” Ough said. “Everything I was looking for was here. It just made the most sense to me. I liked the coaches, the girls, the region. It’s not too far from my house either.
Upon her first arrival on the UCD campus and on the volleyball team, Ough replaced Jackie Graves as the tallest player in program history with her height at 6-foot-6.
Aggie’s head coach Dan Conners welcomed Ough onto the court with open arms, finding room for her to be a starter up front as a rookie.
“When Josephine arrived she was a bit wide-eyed and didn’t quite understand what college volleyball is, but what I saw was that she was able to adapt very quickly” , Conners said. “His completion percentage from his first season to his second year jumped quickly. It comes from her off-season work that she has invested herself in and her mentality. Her ability to understand how to move and where she is in space has really helped her growth as a volleyball player.
As a freshman starter in 19 of 22 games, including Big West’s 16 games, Ough led the Aggies with 76 total blocks (1.03 per set), averaging fifth overall in the conference. while earning Big West Conference All-Freshman team honors.
The following season, Ough broke out with both his strike percentages and block totals, finishing his second campaign with 173 kills and 1.82 kills per set while hitting .386, which was a massive improvement over his first year in which it had reached only 0.224.
Although the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ough hasn’t slowed down.
“She grew into her competitive nature,” Conners said. “She doesn’t like to lose. She wants to solve it. As she gets older, she is more proactive in resolving this process instead of just being frustrated.
In 2021, Ough appeared in all but two games, finishing her junior year ranked 5th in the league in hitting percentage (.376) and led the Big West in blocks per set (1.29). His 134 total blocks also ranked fourth on the school’s single-season list that year. Without a doubt, she made the 2021 All-Big West Conference first team alongside Olivia Utterback.
The numbers and accolades show that Ough is a force to be reckoned with every time she steps onto the court.
Not only is Ough an offensive and defensive threat at all times. She also became a leader, and some of her longtime teammates envisioned her growth from day one.
“She’s got fire,” said Aggie/Libero Junior Defensive Specialist Shira Lahav. “You need her on the pitch. She’s this intimidating player we have against other teams. By playing with her, I feel more comfortable knowing that she has my back. I know I can trust him to block a ball or smash it. She’s so much fun playing with energy, bringing the team together.
“She’s always been really great,” said Demari Webb, Aggie’s redshirt junior. “She is very humble about her accomplishments. It’s really fun to see her in her element.
Webb and Ough have been teammates for five years together as the Aggies. Webb appreciated the friendship they created during their time at UC Davis.
From helping peel Skittles candy from a vending machine in freshman freshman to showing teammates her home in Berkeley, Webb says Ough treated her like family on and off the field.
“She’s still there as a teammate and a friend,” Webb said. “She likes to crack jokes, but when it’s time to get serious, she can really get on top of it. I appreciate everything she’s done so far while we’re here together.”
Ough and his teammates are yet to finish as they rush through the season.
Whether it’s a jaw-dropping block at net or a quick kill in open space, Ough’s teammates know she’s got their back.
“I want to run around the court like crazy,” Lahav said when Ough set up an energizing block. “You see the whole team on the bench burst. We are lucky to have her because she does it often and we can celebrate with her.