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Abby Gilleland sets the ball for Ali Lake, a sophomore studying health services administration, during a game Sept. 5 in the Convocation Center against the University of Michigan.

Volleyball: Ohio clinches No. 2 seed in MAC tournament on Senior Night

Ohio earns a sweep over Akron during an emotional departure for the team's seniors.

There were major playoff implications on the line Saturday evening, but Ohio’s main focus wasn’t volleyball.

Its main focus was honoring a historic senior class.

Saturday saw the final regular season appearances of seniors Abby Gilleland, Meredith Ashy, Karin Bull, Shelby Walker and redshirt junior Aubree Hord, as Ohio swept Akron (2-14, 8-21 Mid-American Conference) inside The Convo on Saturday night. 

“Tonight was probably one-part about volleyball and a lot of parts about honoring the seniors,” coach Deane Webb said. “I think we did that well tonight. It was great to see those kids get a win on Senior Night. They’ve given so much to this program throughout their career.”

Before the game, each of them was escorted by their family onto the court, where they were greeted by Webb and Ohio athletic director Jim Schaus, who presented them with a framed jersey.

Gilleland, who was visibly emotional during the pregame ceremony, said when a large portion of the roster are upperclassmen, Senior Night is naturally emotional for the entire program.

“It was a super emotional day,” Gilleland said. “Not only is it the end of conference play and turning the page, it’s kind of a bittersweet night for the seniors.”

Ashy said the emotions of the night didn’t kick in until she saw the team’s locker room, which was decorated by the underclassmen.

“So much effort was put into it,” she said. “You can tell how much they really appreciate us seniors.”

It was indeed about the seniors off the court, but on the court, the match was undoubtedly ruled by junior Mallory Salis.

Salis's hitting percentage hovered around .500 for a good portion of the match, but she ended the match with a .180 clip, as she ended up with 50 swings.

Salis finished with a double-double recording 15 kills and 12 digs.

With the win, Ohio (23-6, 13-3 MAC) clinched the No. 2 seed in the Mid-American Conference tournament, which will take place next weekend in The Convo. Northern Illinois claimed the regular season title with a win against Bowling Green on Saturday evening.

Unlike last season, Ohio did not have a perfect conference schedule this year, dropping three conference games.

Webb preached all year that losing those games has been good in the long run for the program, as it teaches "perseverance".

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With the tournament approaching next week, Ohio will look for a better finish than last year — an upset in the first round — and ultimately a return to the NCAA tournament, an achievement which this year’s seniors know well, as they reached the tournament in 2013.

“A year ago, we had this magical regular season, and then we go and lose in the tournament,” Webb said. “The reality is that the regular season prepares you for the tournament, but we didn’t win it, so our year ended. This year, we’re in the same exact place today that we were last year at the time. Every team right now is 0-0.”

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