The Ohio University women’s volleyball team celebrates after scoring the final point against Northern Illinois to become the 2015 MAC Volleyball Champions at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio, on Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015.

Time For Tournament Action For Ohio Volleyball

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The Ohio Volleyball team will take on 13 seed BYU in Provo, Utah, in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday. The Cougars come into tonight’s match at 26-3 against the 25-7 Bobcats.

The Bobcats have won five of their last six matches, including two matches in the MAC Tournament over three seed Kent State and one seed Northern Illinois. This team is not new to tough competition, as Ohio tested themselves during the out of conference portion of their schedule. They beat then-No. 10 Kentucky, pushed Michigan and Louisville to five sets each.

BYU also tested themselves in their out of conference play. It played the University of Southern California, North Carolina and Purdue. The Cougars rolled through the West Coast Conference, as they went 16-2, only being pushed to five sets two times and winning in three sets nine times. Due to NCAA tournament rules, the first and second rounds are played at the top 16 teams campuses. BYU gets to host both matches at their place, where they posted a

12-0 mark during the season.

BYU has a balanced team in terms of upperclassman and younger players. They have three seniors and three juniors along with seven freshmen and four sophomores. The Cougars will rely on those experienced players in the tournament this year. Despite coming into the 2014 tournament unranked, BYU made a remarkable run, upsetting four ranked teams, including sixth seeded Florida State and top seeded Stanford before losing to fifth seeded Penn State in the national championship in three sets.

This year’s team features a senior setter in Camry Godfrey Willardson, a senior outside hitter in Alexa Gray and senior libero in Ciara Parker. Gray has 521 kills on the season, but BYU relies on its blocking as a main source of defense. The team has just under 300 blocks on the season, which is good for 14th in the nation. The Cougars also hold their opponents to just a .158 hitting percentage, good for 16th in the country.

“Well, they’re a great team. Everyone says every year, ‘Oh, it’s a great team, it’s a great team.’ Not too many teams were in the national championship match recently, as in less than 12 months ago,” Ohio head coach Deane Webb said. “Not too many teams are great — truly great — blocking teams. BYU is certainly that. They have an outside hitter that is one of the most dynamic players in the country in Alexa Gray.”

The Bobcats, however, have several strengths of their own. They, too, have a very experienced team. They are lead by four seniors in Abby Gilleland, Meredith Ashy, Karin Bull and Shelby Walker. Their experience and leadership will be a key for Ohio in this one. The Bobcats go into Friday’s match third in the nation in digs per set with just under 18. They are even better than BYU at opponent’s hitting percentage, holding their opposition to just .145 hitting, which is sixth in the country.

Ohio and BYU will square off tonight at 9 p.m. If the Bobcats defeat BYU, they will take on the winner of Western Kentucky and Arizona tomorrow at 9 p.m.