Updated Sat, Nov 17, 2012 2:24 pm
After closing the regular season on a positive note with a two-game winning streak, the top-seeded Ohio Bobcats (20-9, 15-2) entered MAC Tournament play with a matchup against the No. 8 seeded Ball State Cardinals (14-16, 7-9) with hopes of claiming their eighth MAC title in the last decade. The Bobcats won in straight sets for the second time this year against the Cardinals: 25-17, 25-23, 25-15.
The Bobcats opened tournament play with a back-and-forth fight in the first set, where they would eventually prevail through stellar play from their front row, which closed the first set with 15 kills. The first set would set the tone for the rest of the night and the Bobcats had their sights set on the semifinal game Saturday.
“I thought we came out playing well; I thought our offense was rolling in the first,” said Ohio head coach Ryan Theis. “I think we had 15 kills and one error and the one error was the libero setting, so I though our hitters came out to play. I thought our ball control was good.”
The Bobcats took their hard fought first set victory into the second set, where they would run into a ferocious Ball State attack. After jumping off to a commanding 7-2 advantage, the Bobcats allowed the Cardinals to flock back to take a 16-14 lead halfway through the set, forcing a Bobcat timeout. Coming off this halt in play, the ‘Cats showed great poise and were able to produce several key kills, heading into the third set with all of the momentum.
The third and final set was a breeze for the Bobcats as they jumped ahead 18-10 midway through and would close the match in fashion. With the victory, the Bobcats were able to notch their 16th straight-set win of the year.
“It is nice (winning in three sets). The first day is just long,” said Theis. “The coaches sit here all day and watch the matches and go through that process. We try and make it so the team doesn’t have to. But I think there is nerves coming in the first match so it was nice to get that under our belt, and we will be playing in the semi’s tomorrow.”
Offensively, the ‘Cats were able to spread the wealth around equally and work as a team to pull off the victory.
Sophomore hitters Kelly Lamberti and Chelsea Bilger contributed 11 kills each while freshman setter Abby Gilleland dished out 35 assists, adding an additional four kills in the mix. Freshman libero Meredith Ashy led the team in digs with 15 while junior defensive specialist Mollie Geske added ten more.
As a team, the Bobcats out-killed the Card’s 47 to 34, but struggled on the defensive side of the ball. The ‘Cats committed four ball handling errors and five service errors, however those errors were made up by their four aces and their aggressive offensive attack.
With the win the Bobcats advance to the MAC Tournament semifinals to play the Northern Illinois Huskies (20-13, 10-6) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Earlier this year, the ‘Cats defeated the Huskies in four sets in Athens.