Ohio Volleyball Falls to NIU

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The Ohio Bobcats (10-11, 6-3) fell to the Northern Illinois Huskies (17-4, 9-0) in a five set thriller (20-25, 23-25, 25-18, 25-17, 9-15) on Friday night in the Convocation Center.

Improvement showed with four career highs. Stephanie Olman in assists (66), Erica Walker in digs (25), Katie Nelson in aces (four) and Mallory Salis in kills (29).

Saying she has been on fire recently is an extreme under statement. With her 29 kills, Salis has now recorded five straight games with 22 or more kills. Something that has never been done in the history of Ohio volleyball and Webb said he has never seen this in his 20 years of coaching.

“I think I’ve grown as a hitter, in terms of being smarter. A lot of my kills go off hands or tipping. It’s not much of the bang, huge hit that the crowd gets excited for,” Salis said. “Inside my head I tell myself a kill is a kill, whatever it takes to get a point, that’s what I’m going to do. I just have that mentality and it’s worked for me.”

It has definitely worked for Salis. The Huskies tired everything to stop her, but it didn’t work. They tried double and triple blocking her with multiple hitters over 6’0, some even 6’4.

After tying the first set at 19, the Huskies won six of the next seven points and took the first set. The second set could have gone either way. Ohio led 17-14 but committed three straight errors and the set was tied. The two teams traded the next 10 points and an Ali Lake kill tied it at 22. A Jaime Kosiorek ace gave Ohio the led. But Meg Wolowicz tied the set with a kill. Mary Grace Kelly had an ace and Bri Horwath ended the set with a kill.

“I think three or four weeks ago in a fifth set match, we wouldn’t have even came close or coming down 2-0 and coming out of the locker room we [would have] just hit the hay and said we’re done,” Salis said. “Now we’re fighting we’re coming back, down in games. Look at that second set we didn’t play the best volleyball we came back and were short two points. [We are] growing mentally and emotionally.”

A kill by Salis gave Ohio a 15-12 lead in the third set. Wolowicz responded with a kill to make it 15-13. Simone Miller brought the Convo to a roar with a kill of her own. From there Ohio did not look back. They scored nine of the next 14 points thanks to an ace and five Salis kills.

Ohio once again played dominant volleyball in the fourth set. Tied at six, Ohio scored five straight to take an 11-6 advantage. Six straight points by the Huskies made it a 14-13 Ohio lead. But that is the closest they got. Ohio ended the set on an 11-4 run. Olman had 15 assists to four hitters in the set.

Having won three straight fifth setters, Ohio felt confident. A kill by Ali Lake tied the set at seven. But the Huskies mistake free volleyball, was too much for Ohio, taking eight of the next 10 points and the match.

Northern Illinois made 17 errors in the match, Ohio had 17 errors in the first two sets alone and 26 for the match.

“For us it’s about cutting down unforced errors. We actually scored 13 more points than they did tonight but we had significantly more errors attacking than they did,” Webb said. “I think we had six errors tipping the ball tonight, which is about six more than we should ever have in a match and we didn’t defend their tip well. Literally tonight I could say came down to offense and defense of the tip and if we just change that it’s an entirely different match.”

Ohio is back in action on Saturday, at home against the Western Michigan Broncos. Match begins at 7p.m.