A little over a week ago Ohio looked like it would enter the NCAA tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation.
Two matches later, the Bobcats are likely out of postseason play. A five set loss to Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference tournament semifinal ended Ohio’s 17 game winning streak. Dayton likely ended the Bobcats season defeating Ohio in five sets Friday night.
The Bobcat offense once again had to rely on a large amount of its production from the outsides. Even that wasn’t effective for the MAC regular season champs as Dayton took a 2-0 set lead. Ohio was unable to contain junior outside hitter Jill Turner who had 16 of her 30 kills before halftime.
Ohio would storm back in the next two sets winning the third and fourth sets to force a decisive fifth set. All the momentum was on the Bobcats side as it seemed as though they would salvage the match and their chances of getting into the NCAA tournament.
With everything seeming to be going the Bobcats way, it was the Flyers who came out in the final set grabbing a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Dayton held the lead throughout the final frame on its way to a 15-9 set victory.
“We got to the fifth set and they were just a little better,” coach Deane Webb said. “I really thought going into the fifth set after we had so much momentum from the third and the fourth. The thing is in our sport you have to create your own momentum every set. We won total points, we won hitting percentage, we won aces, we won blocks, and we won a lot of things tonight, but not the match.”
Coming out of the halftime break, Ohio looked like a different team as it was clicking on all cylinders offensively. Led by senior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti, the Bobcats found themselves right back in the match winning the third and fourth sets in decisive fashion.
The Bobcats finally found their offensive rhythm as junior setter Abby Gilleland was getting everyone involved in the attack. She kept going back to Lamberti who seemed determined to not let her Ohio career end in Dayton.
“It was a tough one; it’s such a different feeling,” Webb said. “When we played Western Michigan we just didn’t play all that well. Tonight for the third and the fourth set we probably played as well as we have played in a long time.”
Lamberti led the Bobcats with 19 kills on the night, but it was not enough in the end. For the second straight game, it could not find a consistent second option behind Lamberti. Her 62 attacks was nearly double that of the next closest Ohio player.
Ohio viewed its game against Dayton as a must win in hopes to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. A convincing win against the Flyers would have boosted the Bobcats chances of getting into the 32 team field, but much like their match against Western Michigan they were unable to get in an offensive flow.
The Bobcats will now await their fate this Sunday when the field is announced. It seems as though the loss to Dayton puts them on the outside looking in, but a win over Ohio State and an undefeated run through MAC play gives them a small chance of getting an at-large bid.
“We’re looking at Dayton as a must win,” Webb said last week. “I think right now most people would say that were a bubble team on the good half of the bubble if there is such a thing. We’re looking going into Dayton who just won the A-10 today were looking at it as a must win for us to get in.”