Bobcats Sweep CMU, Win MAC Outright

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The Ohio volleyball team wrapped up its 14-2 MAC season and tied a bow on it with a 3-0 win over Central Michigan on senior night Saturday in the Convo, 25-15, 25-14, 25-19.

With the win, Ohio locked an outright regular season MAC title.

“I love beating Central. They’re always a tough competitor so we were very excited to come out and win,” outside hitter Kelly Lamberti said.

Ohio had struggled in recent seasons against the Chippewas. In the MAC’s regular season format, Central Michigan is the only team Ohio does not play twice each season.

Over the past three years, Ohio was 2-2 in matches against the always-enthusiastic Chips (8-10 in 18 sets), with the past two meetings being defeats.

“They come out with a ton of energy and they have a lot of great defense and really good hitters,” Lamberti commented, “so we just have to handle it all at once.”

The Bobcats came out gunning in their season finale and set a completely different tone from the start.

Ohio went on a 6-1 run out the gate, capped by back-to-back Mallory Salis service aces, forcing an early Chippewa timeout. The Bobcats extended their lead even further when a 7-2 run gave them a 14-5 advantage.

Central got as close as 5 once more after a kill and an ace from junior Kailtyn McIntyre brought the Bobcat lead down to 16-11, but Pinson and Kullerkann restored order with a back-to-back kills. Pinson followed suit with an ace to put the ‘Cats up 19-11.

A string of three kills from Central Michigan later brought the Chippewas within 7, but Karin Bull killed two of the next three points to wrap up the set, 25-15.

The Bobcats pounced a little later in the second set.

A 5-1 run gave Ohio a 10-5 lead, as back-to-back Pinson block assists forced a Chippewa timeout. The Bobcats won three of the next four to jump ahead 13-6.

Kills from Lamberti and Salis later brought the second set score to 18-10 and forced Central to call its second timeout. Ohio held on to take the game, 25-14, and bring a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the break.

Central Michigan battled trough the third set, swinging toe-to-toe with the Bobcats. The Chippewas made the first run, winning five straight points (three on attack errors by Ohio) to take an 11-9 lead and force an Ohio timeout. But McIntyre gave back two of the next three points on attack errors as Ohio retook the lead, 12-11.

The two teams traded side outs to a 20-19 Ohio lead before the ‘Cats closed out the match, winning the last five points.

Ohio landed 43 kills in the match to Central Michigan’s 30. The Bobcats also hit at a higher percentage than the Chips, .301 to .133. The Green and White added nine blocks and six service aces in their winning effort.

“Our passers are really good, our setter is awfully good, and when she’s getting our hitters the ball in good spots our hitters are pretty good,” Ohio coach Ryan Theis said. “I just love the efficiency … love the way we were able to control the ball and score.”

Lamberti led the team with 10 points and added 10 digs for a double-double. Five other players had at least five kills for the Bobcats.

“[Lamberti] really is moving so much better, I got to think she’s pretty close to a hundred percent.” Theis said. Lamberti has been hampered by an ankle injury since the ‘Cats’ Oct. 19 loss to Ball State. “It’s great to have her back and playing well going into the tournament.”

Lamberti and teammate Meredith Ashy both recored their 1,000th career digs Saturday night.

Ohio recognized four players before the match on its senior night: Kullerkann, Pinson, defensive specialist Mollie Geske and outside hitter Kellie Turner. Geske did not play Saturday (coaches decision) and Turner has been sidelined for most of her two-year Ohio career due to injury.

“I love playing in front of the crowd,” Kullekann said. “I think there was more energy coming from the crowd tonight. The team was really pumped for us trying to get the win, and we just went out with a bang.”

Theis praised his seniors after the match.

“They’re easy to talk to, they’re always approachable, they’re good with handling bad situations or getting players to buy in,” Theis said. “They’re everything you could ask for in a senior group. Very happy for them to have a successful championship season their last year.

“I told them, ‘I like them, so let’s keep this season going a month longer so I can spend more time with them.’”

Ohio will be the No. 1 seed in next week’s MAC Championship in Geneva, Ohio.