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Middle back Shelby Walker attempts to block a set by Western Michigan University setter Lexie Pawlik during the Mid-American Conference semi-finals in the Convocation Center at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, on Sunday, November 23, 2014. 

Bobcats approach spring exhibition tournament with motivation

After a disappointing finish to the fall, Ohio is set to begin its spring season this weekend.

Ohio’s season was panning out favorably for first-year coach Deane Webb.

That all changed after a late-season, unexpected finish at The Convo when the Bobcats were ousted in their first Mid-American Conference Tournament game, after receiving byes until the semifinals.

“At the time, like any postseason loss, it’s devastating,” Webb said of his team’s loss to Western Michigan in the tournament.

“Just the immediacy of it is very hard,” he said. “I think what is uniquely hard is when you lose after being so dominant. I think there is extra pain there.”

The result took Ohio (23-6, 16-0 MAC) out of reasonable contention for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Webb said his team was not unfairly left out, but the Bobcats were extremely upset about not completing their goal of receiving an at-large invitation.

Ohio, however, has not had much time to dwell on its defeat.

The Bobcats will begin their spring season when they host Wright State and Fairmont State in The Convo on Saturday for a three-team exhibition tournament. Wright State struggled through its 2014 campaign and finished 5-23 overall and 2-12 in the Horizon League, while Fairmont State finished 24-7 overall and 13-3 in the Mountain East Conference League.

“I really look forward to competing, because we have just been playing each other this entire spring,” junior middle blocker Karin Bull said. “It’s kind of monotonous. It’s exciting to just play someone new this weekend.”

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As the Bobcats prepare to get back on the court, there will be a noticeable presence missing from their lineup because Kelly Lamberti has exhausted her collegiate eligibility.

“Well about every second of every minute of every practice and game,” Webb said of when the Bobcats will miss the departing outside hitter and All-American captain. “She’s just a phenomenal player and that’s something we knew as coaches.”

Lamberti finished her career ranked second in program history with 3.71 career kills per set and third with 1,642 kills all-time.

“She was great. She was very aggressive, very smart, had great vision — great player, very talented all around,” freshman outside hitter Jamie Kosiorek said. “She helped me a ton with blocking and hitting, how to talk college volleyball. She was great and I miss her.”

It will now be time for Kosiorek and a slew of younger outside hitters to step up their play in order to make up for Lamberti’s absence.

Before ending up in a protective boot after suffering a stress fracture, Kosiorek was improving, and some other Bobcats have stepped up in positions they are not used to, Webb said.

Ohio can also look forward to its top setter returning to the floor, as two-time MAC Player of the Year Abby Gilleland is back for her senior season.

“(Abby) wills people to be better and she wills herself to win in a way that is unusual and is special,” Webb said. “We wouldn’t be the same without her, that’s without a doubt.”

After winning their third-consecutive MAC regular season title, the Bobcats will certainly have a target on their backs for this upcoming season.

Although they may be favorites to dominate the MAC after going undefeated last fall, the Bobcats still need to prove to themselves that they can play solid volleyball deep into the postseason.

They will also need to put their loss to Western Michigan behind them.

“We’re very hungry. The positive thing from falling short of what your goals and dreams are in a year is that it motivates you for the following year,” Webb said. “That will impact us positively moving forward.”

@NKairys

nk596613@ohio.edu

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