Bobcats Down Hilltoppers, 3-0

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Ohio Volleyball gutted out three tightly contested sets on its way to a 3-0 win over No. 21 Western Kentucky Saturday in the WKU Invitational, 25-21, 25-23, 25-23.

“It (took) everything we had because they’re a really good team,” Ohio coach Ryan Theis said after the match. “I was just thankful that we rose to the challenge.”

The Hilltoppers (6-4) are the second ranked team Ohio has beaten this season. The Bobcats also won at then-No. 8 Oregon in three sets in their first tournament of the season.

Up two-sets-to-none, the Bobcats struggled early in the third set, as Western Kentucky grabbed a 6-2 lead. The situation was reminiscent of Ohio’s lone loss of the season against No. 24 North Carolina on Sept. 6. That day, the Bobcats took a 2-0 set lead into the locker room but fell behind early in the third set and never regained a lead at any point in the match.

But this time around, Ohio responded.

The Bobcats exchanged volleys with their opponents for a few points before a timely 5-1 run tied the third game at 18. Ohio proceeded to win three of the final four points in the game to wrap up the match.

“You just hope if you have a lull, it’s short and you can recover,” Theis said. “The beginning of game three started bad against North Carolina, but we learned from that, and we’re resilient and able to finish now.”

The match started similarly to the way it ended, as Western Kentucky grabbed a 4-1 lead in the first game and held the advantage for the early part of the game. A 3-0 rally in the middle of the set gave Ohio its first lead at 17-15.

More back-and-forth volleyball followed before Ohio used a late surge to steal the game, winning the last five points. Three straight kills from Katie Horton, Liis Kullerkann and Alexis Pinson put Ohio up 23-21, and a Mallory Salis ace won the set after a Western Kentucky attack error.

Sophomore setter Abby Gilleland paced the offensive attack in the opening frame with six kills and nine assists, while Kullerkann chipped in four kills.

Junior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti had a double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs. Horton wasn’t far behind in the kills department with 10, and Kullerkann finished with nine.

Six Bobcats had at least five kills on the day, and four finished with double-digit digs. Ohio also had nine blocks as a team, led by Pinson with seven block assists.

“I’m thankful that everyone stepped up when their number was called and we got a team win,” Theis said.

With the win, the Bobcats are now 23-3 in games played this season, and all seven of their victories have come in straight sets. Ohio (7-1) will play its last match in the WKU Invitational Saturday evening at 6 against Virginia (4-3).