Updated Sun, Nov 3, 2013 12:36 am
Ohio Volleyball sped past a feisty Buffalo team in four sets Saturday, Nov. 2 for its MAC-leading 10th conference win, 25-15, 25-15, 28-30, 27-25.
Perhaps more importantly, Kelly Lamberti was her usual self again.
The junior and reigning MAC Player of the Year had a match-high 15 kills and added 15 digs.
“I’m glad I got to help my team win tonight. It was a tough match,” said Lamberti, who confirmed that her ankle felt good after playing the entire match.
It took 10 points for Lamberti to get her first swing.
Early in the first, the junior attacked a set from teammate Abby Gilleland on the left side of the court and hit straight into two Buffalo defenders for an attack error.
But once the rust was shaken off, Lamberti settled in.
Number 10 played the opening set without showing any signs of injury, scoring a game-high five kills in the process.
“I think [Lamberti’s] up to above 80 percent now,” Ohio coach Ryan Theis said. “Hopefully by next weekend after a couple of days she’s back close to 100.”
Ohio wasted little time grabbing the lead in the opening set, jumping ahead 5-1. Buffalo closed the gap to 3 points at 9-6, but that was as close as they’d come to Ohio in the set.
Lamberti’s first kill put the ‘Cats up 10-6 and sparked a 9-2 run for the Green and White. The Bobcats won six consecutive points to cap their first set run.
In the second, it was an 8-2 run that put the Bobcats in control.
Up 11-10, a Bufflo service error gave Ohio side out and a 2-point lead. From there, a successful Lamberti attack and two kills by Katie Horton put Ohio up 15-11. Alexis Pinson then put her stamp on the run with a block and two kills over a span of four points to force a Buffalo timeout.
After the stoppage, a Bulls bad set put Ohio ahead 19-12.
Ohio won the last four points of the set to take a 2-0 advantage into the locker room.
Then Buffalo kicked it up a notch.
The Bulls gave Ohio everything it could handle in the third and fourth sets, pushing each game beyond the typical 25-point threshold.
Ohio led 17-14 in the third when Buffalo dialed up a 5-0 run. Middle blocker Carissa McKenna had a kill and three blocks (one solo) during the run to put Buffalo ahead 19-17.
Ohio got a side out on a service error, but the Bulls followed with three more points to take a 22-18 lead in the third game and force an Ohio timeout.
The Bobcats then put together a 6-1 run to take the lead at 24-23. But Buffalo would not go away.
The two teams traded points, no more than two at a time, to a 28-28 tie. The Bulls then scored on back-to-back kills to force a fourth set.
Despite the roller coaster of a third game, the Bobcats didn’t let the loss get them down.
“We just said ‘play better,’” Theis explained. “We got blocked four times, we hit four balls out of bounds, missed two serves, got aced three times … it was just ‘play better.’”
The fourth set was very back-and-forth from start to finish.
A Karin Bull attack error gave Buffalo the largest lead of the game for either team at 19-16, forcing Theis to call his second and final timeout of the set.
Lamberti and Bull followed with kills to draw Ohio within 1 and force a Bulls timeout. After the stoppage, a Buffalo attack error and a kill by Mallory Salis gave Ohio the lead at 20-19.
The Bobcats and Bulls traded points for the next five rallies; Bull’s fourth kill of the set put Ohio ahead 22-21.
Buffalo’s Tahleia Bishop answered with back-to-back kills to put the Bulls up 23-22.
Theis, due to miscommunication with a manager, tried to call for a third timeout, and officials initially granted it before waving the players back on the court after a few seconds.
“It was totally accidental by me, but it still stopped a little bit of momentum,” Theis said.
A Kaja Schirmer block solo brought the Bulls within a point of extending the match to a decisive fifth set.
But Ohio had none of it.
With her team down 24-22, Pinson killed the ensuing point then teamed up with Horton for her ninth block assist of the night to tie the game.
Another kill by Bishop gave Buffalo a 25-24 lead, but Horton answered with a thunderous termination of her own. The freshman electrified the arena with an emphatic foot stomp after the left-side kill.
Lamberti put the Bobcats ahead 26-25 with her 15th kill and forced a Buffalo timeout. Fresh off the timeout, Salis put an end to the shenanigans, firing an ace at Buffalo’s back-right defense to secure the match.
Salis had three aces on the night.
“Close matches [are] always exciting,” defensive specialist Brooke Coleman said. “You never know which way it’s going to go so you have to fight to the end, whether it’s game point for them or game point for us.”
Coleman had a team-high 22 digs in Saturday’s win, setting a new personal best. The freshman started and played all four sets, but subbed in and out regularly in Theis’ rotation.
“Playing with this team is awesome because you know that if you get that dig up, our hitters will be able to put it down,” she added. “In close matches … you know you have to get it up or it could be one point that changes the whole momentum of the game.”
Meredith Ashy, Lamberti and Abby Gilleland all helped out in the back row with double digit digs, while Salis had nine.
In addition, Liis Kullerkann, Pinson and Bull filed in behind Lamberti with double-digit kills.
Pinson added nine block assists.
“Buffalo is a really strong team, so they can turn it on whenever they need to, and they did tonight in the third game,” Pinson said. “It kind of reminds us that we need to play every single point as hard as we possibly can.
“No team in the MAC is going to ever roll over and give it to us,” she continued. “Sometimes it is easy to get complacent after two sets you win kind of easily, so it was a great reminder for us tonight.”
Ohio sits atop the MAC East at 10-2 in the conference, tied with Ball State for the overall MAC lead.
In a week, the ‘Cats will make trips to Bowling Green (8-4 MAC) and Miami (OH) (2-10 MAC). Ohio ends its regular season the following weekend at home against Kent State (6-6 MAC) and Central Michigan (5-7 MAC).
“We got four matches to play,” Theis said. “We got to take one at a time and try to win a ring.”