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Ohio University and Virgina Tech square off in the final match of the Baymont Inn & Suites Invitational, hosted at the Convocation Center. Ohio won the match with 3 sets to 1. (SETH ARCHER | PHOTO EDITOR)

Volleyball: Ohio will defend home court against MAC rivals

After a pair of wins in opening weekend, the Bobcats will look to distance themselves from the rest of MAC

After sweeping the opening weekend of Mid-American Conference play, Ohio will look to carry momentum into The Convo for another pair of matches.

For the 11th time in 12 seasons, the Bobcats have opened the MAC season with a pair of wins. Their first opponent, Buffalo, also tallied two wins last weekend and will be looking to secure the program's first 3-0 start to MAC play.

Under the new direction of coach Reed Sunahara, the Bulls will look to challenge Ohio for the MAC East crown. They are also aided by the return of All-MAC selection junior outside hitter Tahleia Bishop who leads the conference with 4.67 kills per set. The Bobcats have been preparing all week to stop Bishop, as they know she could single-handily change the match Friday.

“They have an outside who is leading the MAC in kills per set at like six kills per set which is amazing,” senior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti said. “So, we need to limit her kills and they are also very good at blocking and have been for awhile now.”

Buffalo is adept at blocking and leads the MAC with 2.83 blocks per set. It also has the lowest opponent attack percentage at .125, so Ohio will have its work cut out on the offensive end.

Lamberti and others will look to put the clamps down on the MAC East this weekend with a pair of victories as a pair of victories will put Ohio in the driver seat for the conference title. The Bobcats would be the only remaining member from the eastern division to be undefeated.

“I think setting the tone is a big for us because we have a long term goal to win the conference and be first in the regular season,” coach Deane Webb said. “Having the opportunity at the end of the year to host the conference tournament and playing for a high seed in the tournament are important games. So, it was great to get two wins to move us closer to that goal.”

The Bobcats will close the weekend against Akron in their annual Dig Pink game, which raises awareness for breast cancer.

The Zips last recorded a three-set victory over Bowling Green and a four-set loss to Miami. This will be the first MAC weekend on the road for Akron, though it lost all three of their matches in the non-conference campaign.

Akron falls in middle of the conference in most statistical categories except for one: kills per set. The Zips lead the MAC in that category averaging 14 kills per set, so MAC East player of the week junior libero Meredith Ashy will have to be on guard for Zips hitters.

Ohio has slowly been integrating outside hitter Chelsea Bigler back into the gameplan. After being selected to the All-MAC First Team in 2012, Bigler injured her knee early last season and is just now able to see time on the court. With her addition to the team, it will give Ohio more options to work with on the offensive end.

With these kind of options on the offensive end, the Bobcats will be tough to take down at The Convo.

“We made rules at the beginning of the season and one of our top rules was to defend home court and not to lose in front of our home fans,” Bigler said. “I think especially because we have the Dig Pink match this weekend too that’s even more motivation to protect home court.”

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