BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The Ohio University volleyball team (6-1) is off to its best start in eight years after dispatching of UNLV (3-4) in straight sets (26-24, 25-21, 25-13) Friday evening at the WKU Invitational in Bowling Green, Ky.
Ohio is 6-1 on the season for the first time since 2005 when the ‘Cats began the campaign with an 8-1 record. The Green & White have posted an impeccable 20-3 mark in total sets this season.
The Bobcats were strong at the net and held a 7-3 edge over the Runnin’ Rebels in total blocks. Ohio knocked down 41 kills to UNLV’s 36 and hit .245 as a team while limiting Vegas to a .140 clip.
Freshman outside hitter Katie Horton (Westland, Mich.) paced the Ohio offense with a career-high 11 kills while hitting at a blistering .500 clip on the night. Sophomore middle blocker Karin Bull (Bloomington, Minn.) chipped in nine kills and three total blocks (one solo) for the ‘Cats, while junior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti (Cary, Ill.) contributed eight kills and six digs against the Rebels.
"I thought Katie played really well today," head coach Ryan Theis said. "Other than a bad run of points in the first set, I thought we controlled the match. UNLV is a good offensive team so we needed to side out well and we did that."
Sophomore setter Abby Gilleland (Bull Valley, Ill.) was sensational in the contest with a match-high 38 assists - including an impressive 15 in the key opening set – while adding a pair of kills and two block assists.
Freshman outside hitter/libero Mallory Salis (Oak Lawn, Ill.) paced the Ohio back line with a career-best 12 digs, while sophomore libero Meredith Ashy (Louisville, Ky.) notched her sixth-straight double-digit dig effort (10) while adding a team-high two service aces.
The Bobcats posted kills on three of their first five points to build an early 5-2 lead in set one. After the Rebels cut the Ohio edge to one (9-8), the ‘Cats responded with four of the next five points to extend their advantage to four (13-9). After UNLV moved back within one (14-13), Ohio rattled off six-straight points – highlighted by two kills from Lamberti – to build a 20-13 cushion and force a Vegas timeout.
The Rebels would not go away in the first set, as UNLV responded with nine-straight points to build a one point lead (22-20). Ohio was not fazed by the surge, as two kills by Lamberti and a block from Gilleland and Bull propelled the ‘Cats back in front by one (23-22).
UNLV shot back with two-straight to set up set point (24-23), but two huge kills from Bull moved the ‘Cats back in front (25-24) and cue a set point of their own. A kill from Horton clinched the exciting first frame for Ohio, 26-24.
Ohio raced out to a 5-3 lead in set two, but UNLV rallied to build a 9-8 advantage. From there, the ‘Cats moved ahead (11-10) on a kill from redshirt junior Liis Kullerkann (Keila, Estonia) and surged in front by three (14-11) after an ace from freshman setter Brooke Coleman (Plano, Texas). The ‘Cats increased their lead to as many as six (20-14) before UNLV raced back to cut the lead to three (21-18). But Ohio went back up by four on a kill from graduate middle blocker Alexis Pinson (Phoenix, Ariz.) and hung on to take set two, 25-21.
The ‘Cats took control in set three after the teams played to an early 9-9 tie. From there, the Green & White notched five-straight points to go up 14-9, then went up by eight (19-11) after putting the finishing touches on a 10-2 run. A kill from Bull set up match point (24-13) and the ‘Cats cashed in on a Kullerkann ace to win the match in straight sets.
Ohio begins day two of the WKU Invitational against host and No. 21 Western Kentucky Saturday at noon at E.A. Diddle Arena. The ‘Cats wrap up the event with a 6 p.m. contest against ACC foe Virginia.