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Volleyball: MAC Tournament to return to The Convo

MAC Tournament’s on-campus move will look to bring a new level of excitement

 

For one weekend out of the year, the Mid-American Conference gathers in Athens.

As a reward for winning the MAC regular season a year ago, Ohio will host the conference tournament this weekend. This is the first time since 2004 a school will host the event — before it was held at neutral site locations.

The previous three years the tournament was held at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. Before that, the tournament was held at the SeaGate Center in Toledo from 2005-10. This year, the conference is returning to its roots as after a 10 year layoff the tournament will return to campus.

There is also a change in the tournament bracket, as the top two teams, Ohio and Northern Illinois, will receive a double-bye advancing them to the semifinals on Sunday. Previously a team needed to win three games in order to win the tournament.

The Bobcats and Huskies will await the winners of the first and second round games. Both will have a week off in between games, which is something they haven’t had since the season started. That’ll allow both teams to rest, but it may not be what they want to be doing at this point in the season.

“It’s a double-edged sword; I think our bodies can use the rest and be able to use this week to relax and recoup,” junior setter Abby Gilleland said. “It gives us more time to focus on ourselves and our opponents. I think seeing how we played this past weekend we do want to be back in the gym.”

After finishing an undefeated MAC regular season, Ohio looks to be the favorite to win the tournament going into it. The conference holds teams that could very well threaten the defending conference champions.

Miami was the only opponent to take Ohio to five sets this season, but not the only to challenge them. Fourth-seeded Ball State also challenged the Bobcats, who cruised to a first set win before the Cardinals practically went point for point the rest of the match.

“We have been asked a lot of times about the 16-0 and all of that,” coach Deane Webb said. “Sometimes people think that it’s easy, and I’m here to tell you and our players are here to tell you that it’s not. There were a lot of games that we played that were close and they were hard.”

Ball State and Western Michigan could be the dark horses of the tournament as both have players up front that could lead their team on a run through the MAC Tournament. The Cardinals had three players named to the All-MAC First Team while the Broncos had two.

Ball State relies on its two players in the middle, juniors Hayley Benson and Kelly Hopkins. Both are 6-foot-4 and bring a bit of intimidation factor to their opponents on the other side of the net.

Led by Freshman of the Year middle blockerSydney LeMay, Western Michigan might have the least amount of nerves when it hits The Convo floor. The Broncos took the Bobcats to four sets and had it not have been for a 24-kill performance from Ohio’s junior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti, they could have walked away with an upset victory.

The MAC’s top eight teams will like nothing more than to finally put a tally in the Bobcats’ loss column.

“There are a lot of teams that would want nothing more than to not only win it, but to knock off team that won it a year ago and the team that had a perfect record,” Webb said. “That’s some extra motivation and I’ve been on the other side of that where you want to go in and beat the dominant team during the regular season.”

@Kovarandrew

ak840511@ohio.edu

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