Kent State Rallies In Fourth Set To Beat No. 18 Ohio, 3-1

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Kent State won the last seven points of the match to hand No. 18 Ohio Volleyball its first loss in MAC play Thursday, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 25-22.

The match appeared headed for a decisive fifth set, as a Kelly Lamberti kill gave the Bobcats a 22-17 lead in the fourth, forcing a Kent State timeout.

But errors became costly for Ohio immediately out of the timeout. Setter Brooke Coleman erred on service after the stoppage, and after the side out, Lamberti posted an attack error and a return error on back-to-back points. The second point, registered as a Kent State service ace, reduced the lead to 22-20 and forced Theis to call his second timeout of the set.

Out of the timeout, an attack error by middle blocker Karin Bull and a kill by Kent State's Kelly Hutchison tied the game. With no tiemouts remaining, Theis watched as a bad set by Abby Gilleland and another miss by Lamberti put Kent within a point of winning the match. Bianca Cifaldi finished Ohio with a kill on match point, knocking off the MAC's last remaining unbeated team.

Kent State kept pressure on the Bobcats throughout the match. The Golden Flashes took a 5-0 lead in the first set and forced Ohio to battle back. The Bobcats stayed close behind, coming within a point of the Golden Flashes on several occasions and evening the score at 20, 21 and 22, but Kent State won three of the last four points to become just the third team to take the opening set from Ohio this season.

The second game started the same way.

Kent State won the first five points, but Ohio responded much more quickly, evening the set at 8-8. From there, the Bobcats gradually built a lead and won a close-but-still-comfortable set to tie the match at 1-1 at intermission.

The two teams played a very close third set early on, but Kent State used a timely 6-0 run to take the upper hand. With the score tied at 14-14, the Golden Flashes forced a side out with a kill and won the next five points on Hutchison's serve to take a 20-14 lead. The 'Cats won three straight points to draw within 3 and force a Kent State timeout, but the Golden Flashes regrouped and won five of the last six points in the set to grab a 2-1 lead.

Ohio led by as many as 7 points in the fourth game before collapsing.

"We've made our living this year on, if one player has an off night, five and six players play pretty well … and that's a good formula for success," Theis said after the loss. "Tonight it was three, four, five players at times not playing well, and you just can't overcome that when a team like Kent is playing really well."

Hutchison, a sophomore, set a career high with 22 kills.

Graduate middle blocker Alexis Pinson had 13 kills and six block assists to lead the Bobcats in both categories. Lamberti recored her fifth double-double in six matches with 12 kills and 13 digs. Bull also had 12 kills.

Kent State did not severely outplay Ohio in any statistical category. But the Flashes did keep up, often outplaying the nationally-ranked Bobcats enough to turn up the pressure at home.

Ohio hit just .225 on 160 attempts, while the Flashes managed .231 on 147 swings.

"I think Kent outskilled us tonight, which is something we're not accustomed to," Theis said. "All year our skill and our ability to put ourselves in good situations and make good decisions … has made our season successful … They beat us tonight. Tonight they were the better team."

Ohio made the three-hour-and-20-minute trip to Kent on the day of the game; the team typically travels on the days or nights before matches.

The 'Cats encounter their first match in the MAC-West portion of the schedule Saturday at Eastern Michigan.