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Ohio senior setter Abby Gilleland (center) celebrates with her teammates after sweeping Northern Illinois 3-0 to win the 2015 MAC Volleyball Tournament on Sunday in the Convocation Center. 

Volleyball: Ohio wins Mid-American Conference tournament

Ohio earns a berth to the NCAA tournament with their eighth Mid-American Conference tournament win in 10 years.

The eruption of cheers from the crowd when Bobcat Karin Bull put the ball past a Northern Illinois Huskies defender was more like a sigh of relief. Ohio had been waiting for this moment for quite some time.

The Bobcats swept the Huskies, 3-0, inside The Convo on Sunday night to win the Mid-American Conference tournament and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

“This is something the seniors wanted extremely bad,” senior Abby Gillleland said. “We knew after not winning the conference this season, it was our last one opportunity for the upperclassmen to win a MAC championship on our home court. I think that was something that drove us."

This season was much about avenging last year’s early exit in the MAC tournament.

That early exit in the 2014 tournament kept the Bobcats out of the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons, as Ohio had gone a perfect 16-0 in regular season conference play.

Unlike last season, though, Ohio didn’t roll through its conference schedule, instead, losing three games this time around to Northern Illinois, Miami and Kent State.

All season long, however, coach Deane Webb preached those losses were good for the overall betterment of the team, as they allowed the Bobcats to see what it was like to get challenged.

It seemed to work.

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“Sometimes you need a bit of a wake up call,” Webb said. “Not necessarily emotionally, but just technically. We knew we had to speed up our offense. We’ve started to make some changes.”

One of those was to include junior Mallory Salis in the offense more.

Salis was crucial to the Bobcats’ offense all weekend, notching a double-double in the semifinals and 19 kills and nine digs in the title game.

Her co-captain Gilleland was just as crucial.

Gilleland, who was named Tournament MVP and a member of the All-Tournament team alongside senior Meredith Ashy, recorded 101 assists throughout the two games.

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The senior setter credited the team's success for believing in Ohio's "system."

"We were in system all weekend," Gilleland said. "Our offense has been very willing to make changes. We sped up the offense. We changed some things. Everyone executed their gameplan when we needed to."

With a matchup against Dayton this upcoming Friday and the NCAA tournament selection show Sunday, Ohio still has its hands full this week.

Though Webb is focused on Dayton, the players' dreams of making an NCAA tournament run is finally fulfilled.

“We’re seniors now,” Gilleland said. “We stepped on the court our sophomore year and were wide-eyed. The best thing we can do the next couple of weeks is work hard and prepare (the younger players), so it becomes a culture.”

@efelderstein14

ef684013@ohio.edu

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