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Shelby Walker, Ohio senior middle blocker (#13), spikes the ball between Nicole Slimko, Bowling Green sophomore outside hitter (#14), and Alyssa Maloney, Bowling Green junior middle blocker (#15). Ohio beat Bowling Green on Sept. 25 and won three matches in a row. 

Volleyball: Bobcats sweep Falcons in Mid-American Conference opener

Gilleland and Salis lead the way in Ohio's victory in straight sets over Bowling Green.

Ohio’s Mid-American Conference opener didn’t last long thanks to two women from Illinois.

Senior Abby Gilleland (Bull Valley, Illinois) and junior Mallory Salis (Oak Lawn, Illinois) lived only an hour-and-a-half apart growing up, but on Friday in The Convo, the duo was inseparable.

Gilleland and Salis lead the Bobcats with double-doubles, as Ohio (11-3, 1-0 MAC) ousted Bowling Green — 25-21, 25-13 and 25-19 — in straight sets.

“They play so hard,” coach Deane Webb said of the two Illinois natives. “Their work ethic and effort is off the charts. I can’t count how many times Mal and Abby were flying around the court tonight, or off the court, or onto the scorer’s table.”

Salis and Gilleland sacrificed their bodies often Friday night, allowing Ohio to bounce back from a slow start. 

In the first set, Bowling Green started out with a 15-6 lead, as early on, it was a battle between Gilleland and Bowling Green’s 6-foot-3 outside hitter, Jelena Sunjic.

Sunjic, a 2014 All- MAC selection, had Ohio on its heels for most the first set as the number one option to Bowling Green’s attack.

Gilleland, mostly known for setting up her teammates and recording around 30-plus assists per night, also added multiple attacks of her own by lightly pinpointing areas on the Falcon side. Gilleland ended the night with 31 assists and seven kills. 

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“It’s my job to open opportunities up when I can,” Gilleland said. “I think it’s ‘I take it and I leave it when I see it’ kind of thing. Tonight the opportunity presented itself more times than not.”

On one rally, a Bobcat spike struck off the shoulder of a Falcon in the back row, and the ball fluttered onto the floor just inches away from the closed hand of libero Meredith Ashy.

A 10-1 run for the Bobcats turned things around, however, after Webb’s timeout calmed some of the Bobcats' erratic play.

Salis, another Bobcat not normally known for her aggressive offense, was in full form Friday night. She lead Ohio's attack with 13 kills.

Although dealing with a hamstring injury at the start of the season, Salis seemed to have no troubles getting up in the air.

“I used to have a sleeve on my leg and that is gone now,” Salis said. “I am at 100 percent and I feel great. It’s good to be back and I’m glad my team has trust in me to get me the ball. It’s a great feeling.”

The Bobcats ran away with the second and third sets, as Gilleland zoned in during the final set.

At one point, she dashed under the net onto the Bowling Green side of the court to retrieve an arrant ricochet to keep a rally going — abandoning her well-being for Ohio's win. 

“It sets the tone,” Gilleland said about her all out style of play. “That’s my goal every single time I’m on the court, is to do something that makes the person next to me say ‘Ho, I gotta do the same thing’.”

nk596613@ohio.edu

@NKairys

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