Setter Gilleland’s Attacking Fuels Ohio Success

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In volleyball, the setter is often referred to as the quarterback of the team. Abby Gilleland is more of a quarterback, running back and wide receiver for the Bobcats.

The junior has become accustomed to running one the Mid-American Conference’s most efficient offenses, but over her three years at Ohio, Gilleland has also grown into one of the most effective attackers.

“They (coaches) have given me the go ahead on being aggressive, and the last coaching staff did the same, so my time here at Ohio has all been the same,” the Bull Valley, Ill. native said. “It’s just been a comfort thing. As time goes on and I get older and more experienced, there’s more ways for me to attack and I learn new things and new tricks.”

Despite her size, the 5-foot-10 setter has a quick, precise attacking style that takes many defenders by surprise. With that attacking style, she has been able to keep opposing defenses on their toes. Her .354 hitting percentage ranks third in the MAC; she is one of only two setters to break the top ten.

“I think it’s just a feel that comes to you,” Gilleland said of her decision making at the net. “I see it out of my peripherals most of the time. If a blocker is gone, or if I feel like it’s a transition play where people are out of their spot, I can normally attack that spot.”

Gilleland recorded her first two career triple-doubles this season in matches against Miami and Kent State. In both matches she matched her career-high of 11 kills.

The setter says her hitting success stems from the feel she has acquired from her years of experience. Gilleland doesn’t just capitalize on opponents’ mistakes; she often sees the game well enough to force opposing defenses of out sync.

“I think there’s different times in the games when you can build up to it and prepare for what you want to do,” Gilleland said. “There are times when I purposely jump higher because I know they (blockers) will jump with me and I can give it to a hitter. Then after I do that a couple of times they (leave the net open) and I can go down.”

Gilleland’s system is highly effective due to Ohio’s consistently strong players in every role of the game. Outside hitter Kelly Lamberti is ranked third in the MAC in kills, while middle blocker Karin Bull comes in two spots behind Gilleland in hitting percentage and sits in the top five in blocking. Defensively, Meredith Ashy is a premier athlete at the libero position, and her 4.94 digs per set ranks first in the conference. Much like Gilleland’s assists, Ashy’s passes are usually in just the right spot.

“It’s a product of having a really good player,” Ohio coach Deane Webb said. “Got to give credit to not only Abby for being able to do that but also to our passers. (The back row players are) passing her into a position where she’s close enough to the net to be able to score, but she has to be the one to see the option and opportunity and take it.”

“Having a strong attacker by me at the same time, I can benefit them the same way they benefit me,” Gilleland said. “And then it all starts with a pass. Just to have the passes up at the net with the ability to attack has made a huge difference.”

When watching the ‘Cats in action, it appears as if Gilleland and her crew have every swing, set and swipe planned out to the tee. In reality, the co-captain’s experience, instinct and intuition has been the key factor in the ‘Cats consistent success.

“There are very few decisions I have going into a point that I know what I’m doing,” Gilleland said. “Most of my decisions are made last minute, given on what I see.”