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Senior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti sets the ball during the Mid-American Conference semi-finals in the Convocation Center, at Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. 

Volleyball: Bobcats finish season disappointed

#OhioVB: Final two matches of the season keep Bobcats from their ultimate goal of making the NCAA tournament.

Selection Sunday was the final confirmation for Ohio that it didn’t do quite enough to finish where it wanted to be.

Returning Mid-American Conference players of the year Abby Gilleland and Kelly Lamberti led Ohio with high hopes to start the season. Ohio lived up to that promise throughout a majority of the season, as it went undefeated in MAC play (16-0) en route to winning a third consecutive MAC regular season title. But ultimately the season came down to two matches at the end of the season.

Ohio (23-6, 16-0 MAC) was riding a 17-game winning streak coming into a MAC tournament at home in which the Bobcats were heavily favored. Despite taking the first two sets of their first and only game of the tournament, against Western Michigan, Ohio didn’t look like its normal self with mental mistakes that it had not committed all year. After halftime, the Broncos (22-13, 9-7 MAC) won the next two sets to tie up the match.

Despite going to a fifth set, the crowd at The Convo remained calm because it had seen this before. This was different though, as the Bobcats lost to the eventual MAC Tournament champions.

“Against Western Michigan we just didn’t play well,” coach Deane Webb said. “It almost seemed like we were just trying to survive and playing with a not to lose mentality.”

After being knocked out of the MAC Tournament, Ohio turned to their final match of the season against Dayton as a last hope for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. The Flyers had won the A10 Tournament, so a win would have boosted the Bobcats’ RPI.

Ohio came out flat yet again. The Flyers won the opening two sets, but the Bobcats would win the next two to force a fifth set. With all the momentum going Ohio’s way, it was Dayton who took the lead early. They never let go and beat the Bobcats in five.

“We thought before the Dayton game if we beat Dayton we would have maybe a 75 percent chance of getting in,” Webb said. “If we lost to Dayton we felt that percentage would drop to about 10.”

In the early parts of the year, the Bobcats showed that they could compete with virtually any team in the nation, traveling to Hawaii, Illinois and Cincinnati. In those tournaments, Ohio would face five teams that would go onto being ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top 25. Its non-conference schedule had five teams that would hear their name be called on Selection Sunday.

It was an accomplished season that didn’t go without it’s recognitions. Four Ohio players were named to the All-MAC First Team while Gilleland took home MAC player of the year and setter of the year. Meredith Ashy was also named MAC defensive player of the year, which marks the first time an Ohio player has won the award.

All of these pieces seemed to be adding up to a Bobcat run to the NCAA tournament and potentially even beyond that. They had only three matches remaining before potentially hearing their names called, but fell short of the team’s ultimate goal — to make and advance in the NCAA tournament.

“We had our chances and didn’t take advantage of those chance when they were in from of us,” Webb said. “I would say we were disappointed we didn’t get in, but I didn’t feel like we were wronged or unfairly left out.”


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