BUFFALO, N.Y. – Behind a stellar all-around performance from sophomore setter Abby Gilleland, the No. 22 Ohio University volleyball team (11-2, 1-0 MAC) rolled past Buffalo (12-2, 0-1 MAC) in four sets (25-17, 20-25, 26-24, 25-12) Friday evening at Alumni Arena in Buffalo, N.Y.
Gilleland led Ohio with a match-high 36 service aces while tallying 17 digs, six total blocks (including a career-high three solo) and two service aces. The Bull Valley, Ill., native also knocked down five kills while hitting at .308 for the match.
Ohio limited Buffalo to just a .099 clip from the floor, the lowest hitting percentage by a Bobcat opponent in nine matches. The ‘Cats also trailed the No. 1 blocking team in the nation by just three stops (17-14) and held a 6-2 advantage in service aces in the contest.
"Buffalo is the best blocking team we have played this year and it showed," head coach Ryan Theis said. "They made us uncomfortable offensively and we had to be creative to find kills."
Junior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti (Cary, Ill.) recorded her sixth double-double of the season with a team-high 13 kills to go along with 11 digs, while redshirt junior Liis Kullerkann (Keila, Estonia) chipped in 12 kills. Graduate middle blocker Alexis Pinson (Phoenix, Ariz.) led the ‘Cats with a team-high seven total blocks to go along with five kills against the Bulls.
On the back line, sophomore libero Meredith Ashy (Louisville, Ky.) posted her 12th-straight double-digit digs match with 19, while freshman libero/setter Brooke Coleman (Plano, Texas) contributed seven digs and a service ace.
The two teams played to a 4-4 tie in the first set before Buffalo took a two-point lead at 7-5. The Bobcats responded with a 5-1 run, punctuated by a Kullerkann kill – to move ahead by two at 10-8. Ohio increased its lead to four (15-11) on a kill from freshman Mallory Salis (Oak Lawn, Ill.) and jumped ahead by six (20-14) after a kill from freshman outside hitter Katie Horton (Westland, Mich). Successful attacks from Lamberti and Kullerkann helped Ohio close out the set, 25-17.
Ohio found itself in an early hole in set two, as the Bulls led by as many as five (12-7). The Green & White moved within three (13-10) on a kill from Kullerkann, but Buffalo raced back to lead by as many as seven (21-14). From there, Ohio put together a 4-0 run to cut the lead to three (21-18) and stayed within that margin (22-19) after a kill from Lamberti. However, that’s as close as the ‘Cats would get, as Buffalo held on to win set two, 25-20.
The Bobcats bounced back by racing out of the gate in set three. Ohio posted the first five points of the set – including an ace and two kills – but Buffalo responded with a 5-1 run to move within one (6-5). The Bulls knotted it up at 8-8 and the teams went back and forth from there to play to a 15-15 tie.
Ohio posted the next two scores to go up 17-15 and led 20-17 on a kill from Lamberti. The ‘Cats put together set point at 24-19, but Buffalo rallied with five-straight to tie the set at 24-24. But Ohio keep its cool and put together a strong duo of points to take the third set, 26-24.
The Bobcats jumped out to an early 6-2 lead in set four and held a six-point edge (12-6) after rattling off three-straight points. In all, Ohio used an 8-1 run to surge in front of the Bulls by 10 at 17-7. A block from Horton and Pinson put Ohio up 11 (21-10) and the Bobcats wrapped up the set, 25-12, to clinch their first league win of the season.
"The biggest difference between games three and four was that we were able to flip the serve-pass advantage," Theis said. "We finally got them out of system and that really hurt their performance."
The ‘Cats are now 30-2 all-time against Buffalo and have captured 11 of their past 12 MAC openers.
Ohio wraps up its two-match road swing with a contest at Akron (6-6, 0-1 MAC) Saturday at 5 p.m. inside James A. Rhodes Arena.