DEKALB, Ill. - The Ohio University volleyball team (17-4, 7-2 MAC) earned a crucial road victory in four sets over Northern Illinois (12-11, 4-5 MAC) Saturday night at Victory E. Court.
After dropping the first set, 25-22, the 'Cats won the next three sets (25-20, 25-22, 25-21) to claim victory at Victor E. Court.
With the win, Ohio moved to 7-2 in league play and kept pace with Bowling Green and Ball State for the top spot in the MAC standings.
Ohio continued its strong defensive play of late and limited the Huskies to just .130 hitting for the match. The `Cats have now limited their opponent to under .200 hitting in eight of nine league matches this season.
The `Cats also knocked down 53 kills to NIU's 44 and held a 13-11 edge in blocks for the match. Ohio registered five aces and were aced just once by the Huskies on the night.
"It was a gutty performance for our team. I think our players took turns stepping up to show some toughness on the road," head coach Ryan Theis said. "This win gave us the opportunity for a 2-0 road weekend and we didn't get that last time. We have a job to do tomorrow and we have to get one more."
Freshman outside hitter Katie Horton (Westland, Mich.) paced the Ohio offense with a career-high 13 kills and added three digs, while junior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti (Cary, Ill.) returned to notch her team-leading 12th double-double of the season with 11 kills and 15 digs.
Sophomore setter Abby Gilleland (Bull Valley, Ill.) played well in her home state with a match-high 39 assists to go along with seven kills, eight digs and a .583 hitting percentage.
At the net, graduate middle blocker Alexis Pinson (Phoenix, Ariz.) - the 20th-ranked blocker in the nation - recorded eight total stops (including one solo) while redshirt junior Liis Kullerkann (Keila, Estonia) also posted eight total blocks and chipped in six kills.
On the back row, sophomore libero Meredith Ashy (Louisville, Ky.) posted a match-high 19 digs, while freshman Mallory Salis (Oak Lawn, Ill.) registered six digs and surged to the net to post six kills.
The Bobcats held a 7-5 lead in the first set, before NIU rallied to take a two-point lead at 10-8. With the Huskies leading, 16-14, Ohio rattled off two-straight to knot the set at 16-16, but NIU answered back and to lead 21-19 late in the frame. After Ohio again rallied to tie it at 21, Northern Illinois notched four of the final five points of the set to take it, 25-22.
Ohio and NIU played to a 9-9 tie in set two, before the Green & White took control of the set. Fro there, the `Cats used a 6-1 run to go up four (14-10), then extended that edge to five (16-11) on an ace from Gilleland. The `Cats took their largest lead of the set at 22-15, but NIU responded with a 5-1 run to move back within three (23-20). The `Cats then punctuated the set with two straight points - including a kill from sophomore middle blocker Karin Bull (Bloomington, Minn.) - to take it, 25-20.
With the score tied at 5-5 in set three, Ohio again used an early run - this time of the 6-1 variety - to build a five-point lead (11-6). The surge included two kills a piece from Bull and Gilleland. With Ohio up three at 16-13, the Bobcats rattled off three-straight to go up by six (19-13). NIU stormed back to cut the Ohio lead to two (24-22), but a set-clinching block from Pinson and Kullerkann gave the `Cats a two sets to one lead.
The teams again played to a 5-5 tie in set four, and again, Ohio raced ahead by three (8-5) after two kills from Salis and a block from Bull and Kullerkann.The Bobcats extended the lead to five at 14-9. With Ohio in front by four at 19-15, NIU put together a 3-0 run to move within one (19-18). But the `Cats notched five of the match's final seven points to earn the important league victory.
Ohio wraps up its two-match road swing with a 7 p.m. against Western Michigan on Saturday in Kalamazoo.