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Meredith Ashy dives for the ball Thursday in Ohio’s game against Kent State.

Volleyball: Ohio pushes No. 13 BYU to dramatic fourth set in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but falters

Ohio can't pull out the upset over No. 13 seed BYU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, losing 3-1.

Ohio out blocked, out hit, out dug and out assisted No. 13 seed BYU on its home court in Provo, Utah during the 2015 NCAA Tournament first round matchup Friday. 

That, however, wasn’t enough when it came to facing West Coast Conference Player of the Year Alexa Gray and her fellow upperclassman, WCC Defensive Player of the Year Amy Boswell, in a game where tournament experience mattered down the stretch.

“BYU did a great job winning the close ones,” Ohio coach Deane Webb said. “Give credit to their team, they were very poised late in sets.”

The Bobcats came close to knocking out the 2014 NCAA Tournament runner-up Cougars, but ultimately lost 3-1 in four sets: 25-19, 23-25, 17-25 and 24-26.

Going back-and-forth in the fourth set, the Bobcats took a 23-22 lead following a spike from Gray that was pushed hard into her side of the net.

The next high-flying service from Ohio's Jaime Kosiorek was quickly dug out and set to BYU’s Boswell who crushed the ball cross-court and silenced Ohio, tying the set in the process.

That kill marked 6-foot-4 Boswell’s 18th kill on the night, which tied her career high in a match.

The game remained tied after Ohio outside hitter Mallory Salis produced an error and kill, but BYU’s experience eventually pushed the Cougars past the Bobcats’ grit.

A left-handed push from the Cougar’s Lacy Haddock found its way onto the Bobcats sideline and a heavily worked Salis (67 total attacks) soared a spike high and out of bounds to end the game, 26-24, in the fourth set. 

As a smaller team, Ohio surprised BYU at the net. BYU is arguably one of the best blocking teams in the nation, ranking 16th overall in blocks per set in the NCAA, but was beaten by Ohio in that particular category.

The one facet of the game the Cougars clearly won, however, was the serving battle.

Ohio continually hurt itself with 12 total service errors and couldn’t muster a single service ace while BYU challenged the Bobcats at each serve, recording six service aces and only one service error.

“They beat us on a few short serves, which was unusual for us, but just overall they drove the ball well,” Webb said. “To have six aces and only one error, that’s just great control. I think that’s really where the match was decided tonight.”

In a 21-kill performance, BYU’s Gray frustrated Ohio with one of the hardest spikes in the nation, but she also bailed out her teammates with diving, one handed digs.

With the win, BYU will move on to play Western Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

For Ohio, the loss signals the end of seniors Karin Bull, Abby Gilleland, Meredith Ashy and Shelby Walker -- all integral parts to this year's NCAA run. 

Gilleland had nine kills as a setter and tallied 53 assists against BYU, putting her teammates in position to make plays on the ball. Ashy recorded 20 digs, while in charge of corralling a majority of the Cougars’ scorching spikes all evening.

“It’s an awesome environment,” Gilleland said. “That’s what you hope for, is a good challenge when you get to the NCAA tournament. That’s the most exciting thing is being able to play in front of a crowd that appreciates volleyball and understands the fight you’re putting up.”

Webb had high praise for his senior class, a class that has been a part of two NCAA runs in four years. 

“I am blessed to have been able to coach them,” Webb said. “They have given so much to our program. I trust them with helping the young people understand what it takes to be a Bobcat volleyball player.”

nk596613@ohio.edu

@NKairys

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