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Abby Gilleland, a sophomore setter, leaps for joy after Ohio defeated CMU 3-0 on Nov. 16. She received her second straight MAC player of the year honors Thursday.

Volleyball: Ohio looks to remain undefeated in MAC play this weekend

After a loss to Ball State last year, Ohio will be looking to seek revenge in Muncie this weekend

This weekend presents another chance for revenge for Ohio.

After getting early season retribution from last year’s loss to Kent State, OU (13-4, 6-0 Mid-American Conference) will look to do the same when they travel to Ball State on Friday.

Those two teams were the only ones to beat the Bobcats in MAC play last season. They will take aim at the Cardinals as they travel to Muncie for their only regular season match on the year. Since losing on opening weekend to Northern Illinois, Ball State (11-8, 5-1 MAC) has rattled off four straight wins putting them second in the MAC West.

Much of their success can be attributed to that of redshirt junior middle blocker Hayley Benson who leads the Cardinals in kills (208), attack percentage (.354), and total blocks (68). For her efforts this season, Benson has been named MAC West player of the week three times this season.

“As far as attacking she has to be the most dominant middle in conference,” coach Deane Webb said. “So she’s a kid that we really have to be focused on containing or she’ll have a great day and we’ll struggle.”

A year ago the Bobcats were able to slow the All-MAC selection down limiting her to six kills on 16 attempts. That night the outside hitter combination of redshirt junior Alex Fuelling and redshirt sophomore Mackenzie Kitchel caused the Bobcats troubles. The pair combined for 30 kills in route to a five-set upset of the Bobcats.

The Cardinals were also able to limit senior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti to four kills on the night while she came back from a leg injury.

Last year, the Bobcats had a little over a day to prepare for Ball State. They hope it will be different this year with a full week of preparation under their belts as they are squarely focused on Benson and the Cardinals.

“Our matches against them are always very competitive not chippy necessarily, but competitive in all aspects of the game,” junior setter Abby Gilleland said. “Coming into this weekend knowing that we left a little bit on the floor against them last year, we just want to come back this year and improve on what we did wrong last year.”

Toledo (1-18, 0-6 MAC) is also on the docket this weekend for Ohio as it makes the trip to Savage Arena to take on the Rockets. They have struggled so far this season with their only win of the season coming against IPFW in five sets.

They are in the midst of a rebuild as six of their nine normal rotational players are underclassmen. Toledo is also undersized upfront which works in the favor of the Bobcats who have taken advantage of smaller teams like UW-Green Bay and Bowling Green.

Ohio beat both of those teams in straight-set victories, something which they will look to do again against the Rockets.

What Webb has shown against these kinds of teams is the ability to use the team’s depth and get others involved in the offensive attack. This has paid dividends for the likes of freshman outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek, who has been able to develop behind the likes of Lamberti.

With Kosiorek emerging as the second option on the offense, the Bobcats will have someone else to go to if Ball State or Toledo keys in on Lamberti.

“Jaime is a kid that is hungry, wants to get better, and wants to get more athletic,” Webb said. “She just wants to do the things and just do the things over the course of her career that have her moving in the upward direction. And that’s great for a player that is already achieving at a high level.”

@Kovarandrew

ak840511@ohio.edu

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