Updated Sun, Oct 6, 2013 4:30 pm
Through two weekends, Ohio is still perfect in Mid-American Conference play. No other team can say that.
The Bobcats swept MAC rival Bowling Green (6-8, 3-1 MAC) Friday in the Convocation Center, 25-17, 25-23, 25-15 to become the last remaining undefeated team in the conference.
“There’s a lot of parity already. I don’t know how many times we’ve gone two weeks and had one undefeated team in the conference,” head coach Ryan Theis said. “We’ve got two weeks down and six more [in the regular season] to go.”
The MAC instituted a new format for its conference tournament this year. Beginning this season, the team that wins the regular season MAC title earns the right to host the following season’s conference tournament.
“They’re very into this race,” Theis said of his players. “In a half-hour, they will be online trying to see who else won in the MAC. They are really focused, honed in group.”
Ohio (14-2, 4-0) had little trouble sending the preseason MAC favorites home with a loss, with the exception of a down-to-the-wire second game.
With Bowling Green on serve, junior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti delivered a kill to tie the set at 23-23.
On the side out, Theis called on freshman Geneva Yee to serve for Ohio.
Yee calmly rang in an accurate serve to the left side of the Bowling Green defense for an ace, giving Ohio a 24-23 lead. On the next point, Yee’s placement was precise again, as Bowling Green was unable to set up its offense. Yee dug a Falcon attack, and Ohio won the point on a double hit violation to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room at intermission.
“We’ve used Geneva in the serving sub role in a couple of different matches this year,” Theis said. “We wanted to have an opportunity late in the game where we could try it again, and it payed off huge."
Yee was a late addition to the Ohio roster in August. She has played in 21 sets this season.
“Her situation kind of fell through at the last place,” Theis said. “She really adds a fun element to our team … hopefully she gets in more situations to make big plays.”
Lamberti was also instrumental part of the ‘Cats’ second-set effort. Trailing 15-13 after a side out, Lamberti dialed up her heavy-top-spin jump serve for back-to-back service aces to tie the game and force a Falcons timeout.
Ohio had seven aces as a team in the match; Bowling Green recorded its only ace on the third-to-last point of the game.
“I thought we handled service pressure from them well, and I though we put it on them,” Theis said.
Bowling Green won the next three points, forcing Theis to burn a timeout. The ‘Cats had to claw from behind for the majority of the game, as their only second-game leads were at 2-1 and 24-23.
But every time Bowling Green tried to maek a run, Ohio answered. The Bobcats battled back from small deficits throughout the set, tying the score at 15, 20, 22 and 23 before they finally took the lead.
“We had to score 20 points out of the 25 to win,” Theis said. “They just weren’t making any mistakes, so [we really had to] score a ton of points. Fortunately, those two that ‘G’ scored at the end were pretty big.
“That’s Geneva … we call her ‘G,’” Theis explained.
Ohio wore pink jerseys Friday for its annual Dig Pink initiative to raise breast cancer awareness. Many fans and the alumni band also wore pink to show their support.
“We love the support,” the always-concise Lamberti said. “It was an awesome support group, and the band is amazing … They bring a lot of energy to the gym.”
The Bobcats won the first four points of the match, but the lead was short lived, as reigning MAC Tournament MVP Paige Penrod tied the first game at 9-9 with a kill.
The two teams played back-and-forth volleyball over the next 13 points before Ohio made its move.
A kill by Katie Horton forced a side out, and Meredith Ashy – sacrificing pink for the traditional green as Ohio’s libero – dropped in an ace to put Ohio up, 18-15.
Penrod found the floor with another kill to draw the Falcons to within 2, but she gave the point back with an attack error on the next volley.
Graduate middle blocker Alexis Pinson followed with one of her eight block assists on the night to bring the lead to 20-16 and force a Falcons timeout.
After the stoppage, Liis Kullerkann recorded a kill, and Abby Gilleland notched an ace to force another Bowling Green timeout.
The Falcons salvaged one more point before Ohio closed out the set. Kullerkann killed another ball, and Pinson had two more block assists – one with Kullerkann and one with Lamberti – to end the game.
“[Bowling Green] a really strong hitting team. I think that’s probably their greatest strength,” Theis said. “Normally you’re just trying to slow balls down, if you get the block it’s an added bonus.”
Ohio won nine of the last 11 points in the first game.
The Bobcats never trailed in the third set. Ohio used a 10-2 run to build a 22-12 lead, as the crowd began to chant, “You came a long way just to lose.”
Bowling Green is roughly three hours and 20 minutes away from Ohio University; Ohio finished the Falcons in one hour and 23 minutes.
“We want to prove to everyone in the MAC that they voted for the wrong team, and I think we did that tonight,” Lamberti said. “Of course we go back to [Bowling Green] in a couple weeks, so we’ll be ready for that.”
Lamberti had 10 kills and 10 digs for her eighth double-double of the season but shrugged off her individual performance after the match.
“I just want to help our team win,” Lamberti said. “That’s why I play the way I do.”
Horton added nine kills, and Kullerkann was not far behind with eight.
Penrod led all players with 11 kills, but Bowling Green only managed a .122 hitting average. In the final game, the Falcons had nine kills and nine errors for a .000 clip.
The Bobcats had 13 blocks in the match.
Ohio hits the road again Friday, Oct. 11, for a match at Kent State before beginning MAC West play at Eastern Michigan Oct. 12.