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Abby Gilleland, a junior setter, waits between plays during Ohio's match against Virgina Tech. Ohio won the matchwith 3 sets to 1. 

All-American volleyball player takes game to next level

Bobcats give junior setter Abby Gilleland keys to the offense in hopes of another MAC Championship

Halfway through Mid-American Conference play, the Bobcats remain undefeated with a significant amount of their success due to one of the smallest players on the court.

After being named an American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American a season ago, junior setter Abby Gilleland is looking to set new season highs in both kills and digs, facets of her game that have grown over her three years at Ohio.

With fellow AVCA All-American senior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti on one side, freshman outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek on the other, and junior Karin Bull and senior Hannah Burkle manning the middle, Gilleland has plenty of firepower around her. With teams preparing for the Bobcats’ other offensive threats, the last thing they expect is the setter to attack them.

That’s where Gilleland makes her mark.

The Bull Valley, Illinois native has already recorded two triple-doubles this season — something she hadn’t done her previous two years. Gilleland has been able to find more freedom in coach Deane Webb’s offensive scheme with 105 kills already on the season she is looking to surpass her production from a year ago when she finished with 159 kills.

Webb recognized Gilleland’s talent immediately upon his arrival at Ohio. Since, he has built an offense that centers around the talents of his captain.

“She is a very dynamic player and we’ll increase her ability to do her job once we learn to get the ball to her in better places,” Webb said. “She’s a terrific athlete, but I hope she doesn’t already have to be as athletic. We want her to win more with her mind and less with her athleticism.”

Since installing Gilleland as the centerpiece of the offense, the Bobcats have started Mid-American Conference play undefeated and may be on their way to their 11th MAC regular season championship in the past 12 seasons.

Each game, there seems to be a different player that is able to contribute to the offensive attack. With the mind tree between Gilleland on the court and Webb on the bench, the duo is able to find holes in the opposition’s defense. The pair keeps opponents on their toes as Gilleland is able to find the hot hand, which sometimes even means doing it herself.

“She has to be the one to see the options, see the opportunity and take it,” Webb said. “We love her being aggressive. It has put so much more pressure on opposing defenses to not only worry about our middle, worry about our outside when she’s front row, but to worry about our setter also.”

Standing at 5-foot-10, Gilleland is not the most imposing force on court. Rather, she beats her opponents mentally by dropping shots in between defenders when they least expect it. Her quick attacks are unknown to the coaches and even the players around her. These attacks are all impromptu for the 2013 MAC Player of the Year and are all based upon what she sees on the floor at the time.

“It’s kind of just a feel that comes to me,” Gilleland said. “I see it out of my peripherals most of the time if a blocker is gone or if it’s a transition play where I feel that people are out of their spot I can normally attack that spot. It’s all really about keeping them on their toes and attacking different areas, so they can’t set up a consistent defense around us.”

Her fast kills leave opponents guessing, which opens up players around her to have more open looks for her teammates. So far that has been the recipe for success as the Bobcats have only dropped five sets in their first eight conference games.

With the combination of Gilleland on the court and Webb on the bench the Ohio nucleus will look to take the program to new heights to make a tournament push this year.

“The coaching staff has given me the go ahead to be aggressive and the last coaching staff did the same,” Gilleland said. “I think as time goes on and as I get older and more experienced, there’s more ways for me to attack and I learn new things and new tricks.”

@Kovarandrew

ak840511@ohio.edu

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