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Members of the Ohio University volleyball team celebrate after scoring a point during the semifinals of the MAC tournament against Kent State on Saturday, in The Convo. Ohio beat Kent State 3-1 and will move on to the finals of the MAC tournament Sunday at 7:30 against Northern Illinois.

Ohio Volleyball: Gilleland’s 58 assists vault Ohio to MAC Tournament semifinal win over Kent State

The Bobcats NCAA Tournament hopes stay alive as they beat Kent State in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament.

Abby Gilleland does everything in her power to put the ball in place for her teammates to shine in the spotlight, just like any other setter would.

But even off the court, Gilleland wanted to assist her outside hitter.

As she stood in front of a MAC Tournament backdrop for the postgame press conference with a sea of cameras in front of her following a victory over Kent State in the semifinal, she glanced over at Mallory Salis, as they both fidgeted from left to right.

Sacrificing her opportunity to find her perfect lighting, she asked, “What’s your good side?”

In a night where Gilleland tallied 58 total assists in four sets (only three assists shy of her career high), the Bobcats took down the Flashes – 25-12, 25-18, 23-25, and 25-15 – with their eyes now set on a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

“Well, she’s the quarterback of the team,” coach Deane Webb said about Gilleland. “Just a leader, a competitor. You’re not gonna find very many kids who compete harder. Lead by example, she does that.”

Gilleland found outside hitters Salis and Jaime Kosiorek on multiple occasions on the night, as they recorded 17 and 16 kills, respectively.

In a 6-0 run in the fourth set that gave the Bobcats a convincing 20-9 lead, Webb was out of his normal seated position by the scorer’s table and was almost a seventh player in rotation for Ohio.

He couldn’t help leaping toward the court and applauding after a couple of well placed kills by Kosiorek, a sophomore.

“One of the great things in coaching is when you see somebody grow up,” Webb said. “Jaime has always had the ability. When she woke up this morning at 9 o’clock she was ready for the match to start. I was impressed that she was able to control her emotions.”

One big reason the Bobcats were amped and ready to play in the semifinal had to do with their disappointing performance against Western Michigan last year when they lost in five sets in the first round.

Searching for a sweep, Kent State stole the third set from Ohio with a late rally to win 25-23. The Flashes put the Bobcats in an eerily similar position as they were against the Broncos the year before.

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Western Michigan won the third set by the same score of 25-23 and took the next two sets, putting Ohio in utter disbelief and out of its 2014 NCAA Tournament hopes.

“They’re saying they’re not thinking about it, but returners were thinking about last year,” Webb said. “When you’re up 2-0 and you lose the third (set) you’re like, ‘Uh oh. We did this last year. Oh no.’ ”

With an experienced leader like Gilleland though, Salis said the Bobcats didn’t have to worry too much about the extra anxiety.

“Knowing that Abby has trust in me to give me the ball and trust in me to put the ball down, that means a lot,” Salis said as she hugged her setter who had assisted her so many times before.

nk596613@ohio.edu

@NKairys

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