Ohio Sweeps NIU, Claims Top Spot In MAC

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Ohio claimed the top spot in the Mid-American Conference Saturday night, sweeping West Division leader Northern Illinois University (25-17, 25-22, 25-17) in a battle of MAC unbeatens at the Convocation Center.

NIU (16-8, 9-1 MAC) leads the MAC in aces per game, but served zero in the match. The Bobcats (17-4, 10-0) recorded eight aces on the night and held the Huskies to a .167 hitting percentage.

“Focus. Every single time we’re in the gym, focus,” junior libero Meredith Ashy said of the ‘Cats key to success. “That’s all there is to it. You’ve got to play with heart, and we did. We’re on a roll.”

Ashy led the ‘Cats with 15 digs and three service aces in Ohio’s 11th straight win and 16th victory of their last 17 matches.

At the net, co-captains Abby Gilleland and Kelly Lamberti paced green and white’s attack. Gilleland, a junior setter, recorded six kills, 32 assists and a service ace while senior outside hitter Lamberti added 12 kills, two aces and eight digs in the effort.

“The captains led so well this weekend,” Ohio coach Deane Webb said. “ Kelly and Abby were so good. Both of them led our team in their own ways, very different personalities, but they led our lead to victories.”

Ohio maintained the lead all night, as there were only two lead changes over the three sets. The Huskies put up their best effort in set two as they kept pace with the ‘Cats all the way to a 20-all tie. From there Ohio rattled off four straight points to set up set point. A service error by Ohio and a kill from NIU cut the lead to two, but a service error by the Huskies gave Ohio a 2-0 match edge.

With this win, Ohio resides as the only undefeated team in the conference and starts MAC play 10-0 for the first time since going a perfect 16-0 in league play in 2006.

“This is a point in the season where it’s emotional enough as it is,” Gilleland said. “And this weekend is always extra.”