Ohio Loses Lamberti In Five-Set Defeat

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Ball State won the final six points of a thrilling match Saturday in the Convo to hand Ohio its second conference loss, 25-21, 17-25, 25-22, 13-25, 15-10.

“Momentum didn’t seem to be carrying much from game to game,” said Ohio coach Ryan Theis.

Without a doubt, the most significant point in the match came midway through the third set.

Setter Abby Gilleland earned a kill when she dug a Ball State attack, and the ball bounced over the net to the back left side of the Cardinals’ court. The play gave the Bobcats a 12-10 lead and drew a loud response from the crowd, but after the play the mood immediately changed.

Kelly Lamberti lay on her side under the net.

 Trainers came to tend to the Lambert’s right ankle. The reigning MAC Player of the Year exited the match with her teammates’ help and left the floor for the locker room on Chelsea Bilger’s crutches.

Ohio lost Bilger, a preseason All-MAC East outside hitter, to a left knee injury on Sept. 6 against North Carolina.

Lamberti didn’t return to the Ohio bench until the fifth set. She watched the final stanza with her ankle wrapped and propped up.

After Lamberti exited the match, Ball State won six of the next seven points to take a 16-13 lead.

A couple points later, Abby Gilleland was credited with an attack error on a bad second touch. Gilleland, surprised by the call, exchanged a few words with the first referee. At the same time, Theis disputed the call and earned a yellow card.

The call gave Ohio a noticeable lift.

The Bobcats won the next four points to take a 19-17 lead, as the players celebrated each point with increasing intensity.

But errors caught up to Ohio.

The Green and White erred on four attacks over the last eight points, including the last three, as Ball State took the third set 25-22.

The Bobcats’ intensity carried over into the fourth set, where Ohio limited Ball State to seven kills and eight errors. The Bobcats took an 8-2 lead and breezed through the set to force a fifth game.

But as Theis remarked, Ball State made more plays in the fifth set.

“Throw all the numbers away,” Theis said. “It didn’t matter that we were outhitting them, out-blocking them … they got three kills late that we needed to make stops on.”

With the decisive set tied 9-9, Ball State’s Alexis Fueling and Mackenzie Kitchel combined for kills on three of the next four points to put Ball State up 13-9. Fueling followed with an ace placed perfectly between Malory Sallis and Meridith Ashy. Their miscommunication brought the Cardinals within a point of winning the match.

Two points later, Kitchel ended things with a kill.

“I though we played relatively well defensively at times,” Theis said, “but in the fifth, we just didn’t get a couple of stops.”

Ball State now holds the best record in the MAC at 19-4 (7-1 in MAC games).

With the loss Ohio falls to 16-4 (6-2). The Green and White share the top spot in the conference with Bowling Green (10-10, 6-2).

Lamberti’s status will be evaluated in the coming days.

“All I know is it’s an ankle, I don’t know how bad,” Theis said.

In the second half of the match, Ohio tried a number of different rotations to fill all of Lamberti’s roles. Hannah Burkle filled in up front through the third set, while Geneva Yee saw increased time in the back row after Lamberti’s injury.

“We have two kids walking down the sideline in crutches,” Theis said. “There’s not a lot of choices in that situation.”

Horton had a team-high 12 kills – eight of them came before Lamberti’s injury.

“We thought about putting Katie [Horton] in the back row to get some more back row attacking, but Geneva [Yee] was playing well.”

Gilleland, who declined to speak to reporters after the match, turned in a well-rounded performance with 42 assists, 13 digs, eight blocks (one solo) and seven kills.

Salis had a career-high 12 kills on 35 attempts, and Ashy set career highs with 31 digs, nine assists and three service aces.

Karin Bull had nine kills and a career-best 12 total blocks.

The first set was back-and-forth early on.

The two teams traded 13 side outs in the first 17 points as Ball State took a 9-8 lead. But the 14th side out gave Ball State some momentum.

A Cardinals kill made the score 10-8 and sparked a run on which Ball State won five of seven points. Facing a 14-10 deficit, Theis burned his first timeout.

Eight points later, Theis called his second timeout as Ball State’s advantage grew to 19-13.

The Bobcats made a small run at the end of the set, winning three points to close the gap to 23-21 and force a Ball State timeout. But after the stoppage, the Cardinals registered consecutive kills to end the frame.

Ball State out-killed Ohio 17-12 in the opening set.

The second set started much the way the first did, as the two teams traded side outs for the first eight points of the frame.

This time Ohio made the run.

A Gilleland block solo sparked a string of eight straight points for the Bobcats, who took a 12-4 advantage and held onto it for the rest of the set.

The Bobcats won the kill battle in the second set 14-10.

Ohio will try to regroup for preseason co-MAC-West favorites Northern Illinois (12-10, 4-4) and Western Michigan (12-9, 5-3) next weekend.