Updated Mon, Sep 23, 2013 3:10 pm
The 24th-ranked Ohio volleyball team dropped a five-set contest at No. 10 Michigan Friday to end its preseason, 18-25, 25-22, 15-25, 25-23, 11-15.
“We play hard,” Ohio coach Ryan Theis said after the loss. “I like to think we play hard all the time.
“There’s no doubt that when teams have numbers in front of them that means something. Michigan was No. 10, and we’re No. 24. And our team wanted that pretty bad and fought really hard. At the end Michigan made a couple more plays than us.”
The two teams sided out through the first four volleys of the final set before Michigan scored two straight points to take a 4-2 lead. Ohio tied the set at five, but three kills in a row by middle blocker Krystalyn Goode put the Wolverines up, 8-5. Ohio outside hitters Kelly Lamberti and Katie Horton answered with kills to bring Ohio within 1 before the teams traded sides.
Kills by Goode and outside hitter Lexi Erwin later put Michigan up, 10-7 and forced Theis to call a timeout. A 4-1 run left the Bobcats trailing by 1 at 12-11, but Michigan won the next three points to secure the victory at home.
“We gave it our all out there,” Lamberti said. “It was a heartbreaker to lose, but we can come away from this match with our heads held high.”
The junior had a game-high 21 kills on a .308 hitting percentage and 15 digs.
“I think Michigan played almost flawless at some points,” Lamberti said. “We had to fight and scrape to win those games that we did.”
The loss was Ohio’s second five-set defeat of the season. The Bobcats dropped a five-setter at home against then-No. 24 North Carolina on Sept. 6. The Baymont Invitational loss was more a tale of two halves, as Ohio won the first two sets but never held the led in the final three.
Ohio came into the match against their Big Ten opponents with experience against top-level competition. The Bobcats swept an Oregon team that was ranked No. 8 in the country on Aug. 31 to win their first tournament of the year. Ohio also beat No. 21 Western Kentucky on the road on Sept. 14.
The Bobcats were 8-0 in road or neutral site games before Saturday.
Michigan took the lead early in the first set with kills on six of the first nine points. The Wolverines jumped ahead, 7-2, on a four-point rally, but Ohio responded shortly thereafter with a 5-2 run of its own to bring the score to 10-8. The match then saw 11 consecutive side-outs, until Michigan finally scored on its own serve to go up, 17-13.
Another 5-2 run found the Green and White within 2 points, but Mighican won five straight points to close out the set. The Wolverines out-killed Ohio, 17-14 in the game.
Ohio dropped the first set in a match for just the second time all season. But it did not faze the Bobcats in the second.
After Ohio conceded the first point in the game, kills by Lamberti and graduate middle blocker Alexis Pinson gave the ‘Cats the lead at 2-1.
Ohio never again trailed in the second game, though Michigan was always within three points and often tied with its MAC foe.
Up 22-20 in the set, Ohio committed two errors in a row, allowing Michigan to tie the game and forcing Theis to call timeout. Out of the stoppage, senior outside hitter Liis Kullerkann found the floor with a kill to give Ohio a point advantage. Michigan’s Lexi Dannemiller followed with a bad set, and Ohio blocked an attack by Molly Toon to win the set and even the match.
Trailing 10-9 in the third game, the Wolverines used an 11-1 run to take a commanding 20-11 lead. During the run, Michigan won seven points on Erwin’s serve. Middle blocker Jennifer Cross had five kills and three blocks in the game to pace the Wolverines. The 6-foot-4 middle blocker was a problem for Ohio all night, as she led Michigan with 18 kills on a .457 clip and seven blocks.
Michigan got 39 kills from its middle blockers in the match.
The Wolverines took control early in the fourth set, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and maintaining the advantage through the early part of the game. The Michigan lead grew to 12-8 immediately after an Ohio timeout before a big swing in momentum. The Bobcats use a 10-2 run to take an 18-14 lead, and it looked as if both teams were headed for their third five-set match of the season.
Michigan made things interesting with four consecutive points to tie the game at 20, and five points later, Ohio found itself trailing, 22-23. However, three straight Ohio kills gave the Bobcats the set and forced the decisive fifth game.
Four players had at least 13 kills for the Wolverines. Toon and Erwin had 15 and 13, respectively, to carry the weight on the pins, and Dannemiller set a personal season-high with 58 assists.
Kullerkann and Horton had 10 kills apiece for the Green and White.
Three Bobcats had at least 15 digs in the match, and as a team, Ohio dug out 73 balls. Sophomore setter Abby Gilleland had 18 digs and 47 assists to lead Ohio in both categories.
“We’re a pretty good defensive team; some nights we’re a really good offensive team,” Theis said. “It’d be great to be good in all phases.
“Hats off to Michigan. I think they’re a little bit better in a couple of the phases than us, if not maybe just a marginal bit better in every phase. In a five-game match, usually a team that plays better in all five phases is going to win, and I think that they did that.”
Despite the bitter aura surrounding the loss, Theis took an optimistic approach to Ohio’s shortcomings.
“What I’m really happy about is I thought there were five, six, seven situations where we could have done so much better,” Theis continued. “I just think in two or three months we’ll be able to handle those situations better and convert those for points.”
With the loss, Ohio fell to 10-2 in the preseason. The Bobcats will begin MAC play next week with a Friday-Saturday road trip to Buffalo (12-1) and Akron (6-5).