Logan Riely | WOUB

Bobcat Volleyball Wins MAC Tournament

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On Oct. 24, Ohio Bobcat volleyball lost in three sets to the Northern Illinois Huskies, which led to the ‘Cats losing three of four games. That loss forced the Bobcats to make changes, and those changes worked to the tune of a Mid-American Conference tournament championship over those very same Huskies in a 3-0 win (25-17, 25-11, 25-19).

“Losing to NIU was a key moment for us because it forced us to make changes,” Ohio head coach Deane Webb said. “We sped up the offense and made some changes in the line-up. It is not easy to change your offense during the season. It’s like telling your quarterback two-thirds of the way through the season, and telling your quarterback we’re going to change half of our routes.”

The Bobcats came out swinging in the first set. The team had 17 kills to just one error on 36 swings. Ohio got off to an 11-5 start in the set and forced NIU coach Ray Gooden to call a timeout. Ohio won six of the next 10 points and Gooden spent his second and final timeout. After the time out, senior Shelby Walker blocked a kill attempt and Ohio had an 18-10 lead. Walker had one of her six kills to give Ohio a 23-16 lead. T’ara Austin missed a serve for the Huskies and Ohio won the set 25-17.  Outside hitters Mallory Salis and Jaime Kosiorek had a great first set, combining for nine kills and zero errors.

“They were good both nights but Mal’ went to a different level tonight,” Webb said about Salis and Kosiorek. “She was doing some things that were pretty special.”

The great swinging continued into the second set. Ohio had 13 kills to only two errors in the set. Ohio came out strong and lead 4-0 and NIU had to call a timeout. Walker had a kill and then Meredith Ashy added an ace. Ohio had a 9-1 lead and NIU called their final timeout. Gilleland followed up with a huge block to make the score 16-5 in favor of the ‘Cats. A Kosiorek ace and an error by Mary Grace Kelly gave Ohio a 25-11 set win.

Northern Illinois put up a fight in the third set. It stayed with Ohio through 22 points, tied at 11. The two teams traded points and were tied at 13. An error by Alexis Gonzalez and a kill by Bull gave Ohio a 15-13 lead. That lead, Ohio would not relinquish. Salis got one of her match-high 19 kills and gave Ohio a 24-19 lead. The NCAA tournament was one point away and the Bobcats got that point on the very next play with a kill by Bull.

“This is something the seniors wanted extremely, extremely badly senior Abby Gilleland said about winning the championship. “We knew after not winning conference this season it was kind of like our one last opportunity for the upperclassmen to win a MAC championship on our home court. That was one thing that fueled us and drove our passion.”

The Bobcats have one last game remaining on their regular season schedule. On Friday, they will play Dayton at home. Then Ohio will learn where it will begin its run in the NCAA tournament on Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.