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Kelly Lamberti jumps high to spike the ball over the net in the Bobcat's home match Friday evening against Western Michigan. 

Lamberti leads ’Cats in big matches

Kelly Lamberti has set new goals heading into the final few weeks of her Ohio career, which will continue Thursday in The Convo against Kent State.

Ohio has been consistently led by one player as it seeks to remain undefeated in Mid-American Conference play.

Senior Kelly Lamberti has been a key contribution throughout her career at Ohio from her time as an all-conference freshman to her time as an All-American captain.

Now, more than ever, Lamberti’s teammates will be looking to her to step up when it matters most. That mantra held true this past weekend when Lamberti recorded 36 kills against Western Michigan and Northern Illinois — the top two ranked teams in the Mid-American Conference West Division entering the weekend.

“Putting up stats against bad teams, OK, yeah, we’ll take it,” said coach Deane Webb. “It’s nice to get a couple of awards and move onto the match. But to show that against a good opponent that just gives you an indication of what that kid is ready to do as we get into the late part of conference season and hopefully beyond. That’s a kid that can rise to the occasion in big moments.”

Lamberti moved into third place on Ohio’s all-time kills list when she recorded 13 kills against Toledo on Oct. 18. It’s not all about breaking records for the Cary, Illinois native, though.

“I’ve never been one for getting awards or anything,” Lamberti said. “I go out to play because I love to play, and I want this program to win. So, I don’t really pay attention to that stuff, but to be able to be up there with all of those girls is an honor.”

As Lamberti closes in on the second-place kills honor, the Bobcats (17-4, 10-0 MAC) know that her main focus will be on the next opponent at hand rather than the record.

That comes in the form of Kent State (12-11, 4-6 MAC) on Thursday.

Ohio was upset by Kent State during its last trip to the Golden Flashes’ Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center. Kent State contained Ohio’s presence from the outside that night, and Lamberti was held to 12 kills.

The Bobcats were unable to hold down junior outside hitter Kelly Hutchison, who finished with 22 kills and only seven errors.

When Ohio’s bus pulls up to the center this time, there will be a little added motivation to play one of its MAC East rivals.

“I think all the returners from last year realize that coming back from Kent was not a great feeling, and we still kind of hold that with us today,” said sophomore defensive specialist Brooke Coleman. “Going back to their place, we remember what happened, and we know what we felt. So, I think that encourages us to play in their gym and leaving there with a win.”

Since that loss, Ohio has defeated Kent State three times — including once in the MAC Tournament. The team has gotten over the initial feeling of losing to the Golden Flashes, but a victory will go a long way in erasing one of the few smudges on the Bobcats’ 2013 campaign.

Ohio can stretch its winning streak to 12 straight matches with a win against Kent State.

“I can honestly say that this team is very focused on improving,” said junior setter Abby Gilleland. “We come to the gym, and we don’t t--reat ourselves like we are a 10-0 team. We treat each game like it’s the start of MAC Conference and we have to go out and perform.”

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