For the first two months of the season, it seemed as though Ohio and Northern Illinois were destined for a matchup to decide the Mid-American Conference regular season title.
With a four set victory over Western Michigan, the Bobcats remain undefeated through the first nine games of the conference slate. The Huskies remained undefeated as well as they grabbed a four set win over Kent State.
Coming into Friday, the Broncos were the only thing in the way of a matchup with Northern Illinois. Ohio didn’t allow their minds to slip off Western Michigan as the Bobcats came out aggressive from the first few points. With senior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti on the serving line, the Bobcats went on an 8-0 run to open up a 15-5 advantage in the set.
“I think it was the mentality that we worked on in practice this week,” Lamberti said. “Just to be more intense and to be a scrappy team which I think we did very well in this game. I think it has just progress over time.”
They would go on to win that set 25-16 largely due to Lamberti’s contributions in the set and all night long. She led Ohio with 24 kills on the night as she took her game to a whole other level against the MAC West’s second highest team.
Coach Webb and the rest of the team knew they would have to step up their game this weekend as they had two of the conference’s top teams. Leaders like Lamberti stepped up their intensity on Friday which Webb appreciated on this crucial weekend.
“That was pretty special tonight,” Webb said. “Having 24 kills and only doing it in 46 swings as an outside is incredible. You don’t see outsides that hit .500 very often especially against good opponents. What is exciting for me is how much better she gets against good opponents.”
Lately the Bobcats have gotten into a trend of dropping the second set after winning the first. Friday, Ohio continued the momentum from their first set into the second to take a 25-20 victory and a 2-0 set lead in the match.
Coming out of halftime, it seemed as though the Bobcats were primed for a three set sweep of the Broncos. Instead, Western Michigan grabbed control of the set early as Ohio called a timeout at 6-1 in the set. The Broncos controlled the third set throughout to take a 25-21 win.
“It happened to be that there was one set when we were really bad and they were really good,” Webb said. “They did a great job that set and we had a lot of attack errors. One set we didn’t take care of the ball and they were great defensively and we hit very poorly.”
They would not let the Broncos stretch the match to five games though as the Bobcats opened up an 8-2 advantage largely due to their serving in the set. Ohio servers got Western Michigan out of system the entire frame allowing them to claim a 25-14 victory to win the match.
Finally, the Bobcats can turn their attention to Northern Illinois as Ohio welcomes in the Huskies to the Convocation Center. Admittedly, the Bobcats have had this game on their minds for a while.
“They’re great. They are a really really good team and that’s something that we have known,” Webb said. “I think both their coaching staff and our coaching staff have worked to keep our teams focused on what’s at hand and not looking ahead. Both teams have been successful in doing that and tomorrow we get to have what we were waiting for.”