Dec. 4, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Michigan - Ellen Herman and Sue Jacobi combined for 37 kills as the Bobcats defeated the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame Friday night by a score of 3-2 (23-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-15 and 15-7). Ohio amassed 14 total blocks during the match while limiting the Irish to .125 hitting.
"I'm really proud of the team for being down two games to one and then stepping it up to another level," said head coach Ryan Theis. "Especially from the service line and from a blocking perspective...I thought that we really picked it up in those areas."
Ohio got off to a great start early in the first set, as Meghan Simons (Lancaster, Oh.) hit a kill on the first point and Jantsch followed with a service ace. Jacboi (Louisville, Ky.) added a kill just moments later, vaulting the `Cats to an early 4-1 lead. Notre Dame bounced back quickly on the strength of some good blocking and two kills by Kellie Sciacca to even the scores at four.
The Fighting Irish pushed forward to an 8-6 advantage in the first, but a bit kill by Katie Post (Streamwood, Ill.) which was immediately followed by a solid Nicole Staverman service run (which included two aces), helped the Green and White grab an 11-8 lead. The momentum and near-capacity crowd appeared to be in Ohio's favor, and Notre Dame was forced to take a timeout.
The teams battled back and forth with some solid defensive play on both sides setting the tone in the middle part of the set. The Irish were able to put together a run, grabbing a 15-12 lead before Herman (Toledo, Oh.) and Simons were able to combine for an important block. Simons and Jacobi combined for an even bigger block just moments later, knotting the scores at 16.
Notre Dame was able to string a few points together late in the set, grasping a 21-19 lead. Kristen Dealy was holding serve during this run before Post slammed one home to put the Bobcats within two, then proceeed to combine with Michelle Jantsch (Mission Hills, Kans.) for a huge block to shorten the gap. Jantsch then cleverly tip-killed a ball and Herman spiked one right past the middle of the outstretched Irish defense to level the scores at 23. Responding right back for the Irish was Jamel Nicholas, who was able to serve the team through to a 25-23 first set victory.
Notre Dame swung with .235 efficiency in the first set and the `Cats hit a .075. Simons, Jacobi and Herman each accumulated three kills, with Jantsch and Post not far behind with two apiece.
The Irish took the first point of the second set, which Herman followed with back-to-back kills to give her team an early 2-1 advantage. A great block by Simons and Jantsch extended the lead, as Post's sinking serves were putting the opponents on the defensive. Simons had a solo block a few points later, extending the Bobcat lead to 6-2.
At 6-3, the Bobcats ended a very long, captivating rally with a kill by Herman. She immediately and emphatically followed it up with a service ace to begin an Ohio point run that lasted until 9-3.
Thanks to a much higher hitting percentage through the midway point of the second set, the `Cats were able to stretch the advantage to 14-6 before the Irish won back the serve. Megan Fesl and Megan Barnicle were able to combine for an important block to break up some of Ohio's momentum.
The Green and White put together an impressive string of points to stretch the lead to a set high nine points at 18-9. Jantsch's run came to an end promptly after Notre Dame's timeout, but the Irish gave back the ensuing serve on an error by Frenchy Silva. A block by Simons and Jacobi a few points later put Ohio up 21-10.
A kill by post put the `Cats at set point with Staverman serving. Notre Dame was able to fight off three set points before a Herman kill ended it at 25-16.
Ohio did just about everything right in the second set, hitting an impressive .379 while holding the Irish to only 10 kills on 36 total attacks (with nine errors) for a .027 percentage. Going into halftime, Herman was pacing the Bobcats with ten kills while 2009 Mid-American Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player Sarah Petrulis had accumulated 11 digs. Simons had done a tremendous job on the defensive side of the net, as she was credited with one solo block and four block assists. For the Irish, Christina Kaelin had hit seven kills and Jamel Nicholas had generated 16 assists.
The Bobcats started things the right way in the third as Post killed the first point of the set thanks to a nice assist by Jantsch. The Irish won the next one but Ohio took the third point after Meryl Bender (Yorktown, Ind.) made a tremendous individual effort on a diving lunge out of bounds to keep the ball alive and force Notre Dame into making a mistake. The Fighting Irish were looking fundamentally sound both offensively and defensively early on, forcing the Bobcats to take a timeout down four points at 7-3.
Whatever was discussed in the timeout proved effective as the Green and White took the next two points in a row before Notre Dame was able to regroup and re-establish a four point lead. The `Cats soon found themselves facing a six point deficit and called a timeout at 15-9. Post was able to take the first point out of the timeout for Ohio as she slammed home her sixth kill of the match. A few points later, at 21-13, Mandy Nichols and Post combined for a very solid block. Bender was able to contribute a service ace on the next point, inching Ohio closer. Just a few blocks and kills later, the lead was cut to four point and Notre Dame called a timeout at 22-18.
Herman jumped high for a solo block to bring the `Cats within three right after the timeout. After the Fighting Irish broke Ohio's serve she was able to add a kill to make it 23-20. The Big East regular-season champions proved to be too much in the third though, taking it by a score of 25-20.
Herman got the 2009 Mid-American Conference champion `Cats off to a great start in the fourth set, as she served a five point run to open the game. The Green and White continued this quick start, leaping out to an early 9-3 lead. Notre Dame was able grab the next point but Herman responded immediately with a vicious kill that flew past the outstretched arms of the Irish defenders.
At 15-9 Jantsch came up huge with a solo block to tip momentum in Ohio's favor. The Irish spent another timeout at this point to talk things over.
Ohio played tremendously in the fourth set, hitting .355 en route to earning a 25-15 victory. Herman was on fire, racking up seven kills in the set. The `Cats held Notre Dame to .000 hitting in this set (six kills on 29 attacks with six errors).
Jantsch set up a Simons kill for the first point of the set, but the Irish answered right back with a kill by Sciacca, her 14th of the night. The opening of the fifth set was as contested and intense as the entire match, and the atmosphere inside Cliff Keen Arena was electric. After another kill by Simons to give Ohio a three-point lead at 7-4, the Irish called a timeout. Post fired an ace on the ensuing serve, stretching the lead to 8-4 as the teams switched sides. Her next serve immediately put Notre Dame on the defensive, and Herman and Simons were able to combine for a big block.
Petrulis (Westlake, Oh.) added a service ace to make it 13-7 in favor of Ohio. Jacobi immediately followed with a kill and Post and Faith Robins (Winston-Salem, N.C.) combined for a block to win match point.
The Bobcats (27-6) hit .236 in the victory, thus improving their record under coach Theis to 46-4 when hitting .200 or better. Ohio held Notre Dame (21-8) to .125 hitting for the match.
"I'm thrilled for these seniors, who have been stopped three times from getting to the second round," said Theis. "Now they get to do it."
Ohio will play the winner of the Michigan and Niagara match, which is currently underway at Cliff Keen Arena.