The Bobcats completed their non-conference slate over the weekend splitting a pair of games at Northwestern.
When the final ball hit the floor in the Wildcat Challenge, it signaled the end of the Bobcats’ non-conference slate.
It’s a change in season and focus for Ohio as its tough non-conference season is in the books. The Bobcats fared well though the first four weeks of the season, as they beat all the teams they needed, but failed to capture that statement win to catch the eyes of those around the nation.
The Bobcats’ only four losses of the season came at the hands of teams inside Top 25 poll with one exception of Northwestern, which looks like it could crack the poll this week. Last week, the Wildcats received eight votes and look poised to make their first appearance in the poll with two wins this weekend.
Northwestern can owe a lot of its success to a budding superstar at the outside hitter position. Freshman Symone Abbott is the Wildcats’ leading scorer with 115 kills. Fortunately for Ohio, it was able to key in on Abbott relatively shutting the freshman down as it forced her into making 16 errors throughout five sets.
“It was certainly a very competitive match,” coach Deane Webb said. “We said before the match that we should expect every set to be two to three point sets and in almost every set once a team got the lead the other team would come back to almost catch them or would catch them and it’s great to play those matches.”
Both Bobcats outside hitters, senior Kelly Lamberti and freshman Jaime Kosiorek, carried the load for the team with 23 kills and 21 kills, respectively. They were the only two Ohio players to reach double-digit kills, as junior Abby Gilliland fed the pair 110 times.
Despite the effort from the duo on the outside, Ohio was unable to trip Northwestern, which was able to find production from other areas. As Ohio keyed in on Abbott, outside hitter Yewande Akanbi picked up the slack for Northwestern. She recorded 21 kills while only surrendering two errors.
“Coming into this game against Northwestern, our program’s record against the Big Ten was 3-30 and we had a chance in six to eight of those matches,” Webb said. “We had those chances and its tough when you get that close and you have a couple of match points to not close the deal, but give credit to Northwestern for what they did.”
After losing a close five-set match to Northwestern, Ohio turned their attention to the other team in the tournament: UW-Green Bay. From the opening whistle, Ohio showed its dominance over UW-Green Bay, which was outclassed in the match.
With a roster made up primarily of underclassmen, the Phoenix were no match for the Bobcats as Ohio cruised to a three-set sweep. Lamberti once again led the way with 19 kills.
Unlike the night before, the Bobcats got offensive production out of the middle blocker position as senior Hannah Burkle chalked up 11 kills. Consistency from that position will give Ohio a much needed element heading into Mid-American Conference play.
“The first two sets we really executed at a high level offensively,” Webb said. “In the third set we got a little sloppy at times, but we were able to focus and get the win.”