Dec. 5, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Michigan -
The Ohio Bobcats fell in a five-set thriller to host Michigan in NCAA Second Round action Saturday. The Wolverines edged the Bobcats by a final score of 3-2 (32-30, 26-24, 13-25, 20-25 and 13-15). Ellen Herman (Toledo, Oh.) tallied 26 kills en route to claiming her spot atop the Mid-American Conference All-Time Career Kills list (1,984 career). Sue Jacobi added 15 kills of her own and led the team with two service aces. Michelle Jantsch (Mission Hills, Kans.) played quite well as second contact for the `Cats, accumulating four kills and 45 assists, doing a great job of keeping pace with 2008 All-American Lexi Zimmerman of Michigan.
"This senior class was an absolute joy to work with," said head coach Ryan Theis. "I loved every minute of it this year. They are a phenomenal group."
The match began with the Wolverines at serve. Maggie Busch got things started, propelling her team to an early 4-0 lead before Jacobi slammed a kill past the Michigan defense to put the `Cats on the board. She then fired a tremendous serve that was just dug over by the host Wolverines, which Jantsch proceeded to kill. Herman added a kill on the next point, and with Jacobi's ensuing ace, the Green and White were back level in a matter of seconds. Jantsch and Katie Post (Streamwood, Ill.) combined for a massive block on the next point to give Ohio its first lead of the day. Jacobi followed that with yet another service ace for her second of the night. A great serving run was just what the Bobcats needed after dropping the first four points, and it propelled them to an early 6-4 lead.
Jantsch served well too, adding an ace to make it 9-6 in favor of Ohio. The Wolverines were able fight back by winning the next three points to knot the scores a nine before Herman recorded a second-effort kill. Her first attack was dug right back to her and she did not allow Michigan's defense another chance with her next strike.
The teams were all square at 11 midway through the set before Lexi Zimmerman hit one past Ohio's defense. Jacobi followed it right back with one of her own, putting the teams level.
Sarah Petrulis (Westlake, Oh.) added a service ace just a moment later, but Alex Hunt from Michigan was able to answer right back on the next point with her second kill of the match. She immediately followed that up with a service ace to tie the scores at 14.
With the `Cats trailing 18-17, Herman slammed home another kill to level the scores. She followed it up immediately and emphatically by combining for a block with Meghan Simons (Lancaster, Oh.) which gave Ohio a one point lead with Post at the serve.
Simons and Faith Robins (Winston-Salem, N.C.) combined for a huge block with the Bobcats up one late in the first, forcing the host Wolverines to use their second timeout of the set.
Herman fired in a kill to make it a 23-21 Ohio advantage, but the Maize and Blue were able to win the next point and regain serve. They then won the ensuing point on a attack from Jacobi that went just wide of the line, leading to an Ohio timeout at 23-23.
The `Cats were unable to side-out on Alex Hunt's serve, which put them down one at set point. Hunt then put her serve into the net, allowing Ohio another service opportunity. The teams traded the next few points until the Bobcats were able to string two together at 30-all, taking the first set by a score of 32-30. Post rose up for a huge block with the scores level at 30, which she followed up in the next point with another by combining with Mandy Nichols (Greenwood, Ind.) to give the `Cats a 32-30 first set victory.
The first set was somewhat defensive, with each team hitting below the .200 mark. It was characterized by long rallies, diving digs and the Bobcats fending off a crucial set point. Herman had eight kills and Jacobi accumulated two service aces to lead the `Cats, who had four total serves that were not returned by the Wolverines.
The second set began with a very level start, as the teams were deadlocked at two after the first six points. Herman combined with Simons on another big block early on, which was indicative of the tremendous team defense being played by the `Cats. Robins came up with a big kill early on, giving her team an early 6-4 advantage. Post and Jacobi combined for a block on the next point, forcing Michigan to take its first timeout of the second set at a 7-4 disadvantage.
The Bobcats further keyed up the intensity after the timeout, stretching their lead to 7 at 12-5. Meryl Bender (Yorktown, Ind.) came up big with a solid two-point serving run to force the Wolverines into using their second timeout early in the second set. She continued her service run for one more point after the timeout thanks to a great kill by Jacobi that struck the line before it flew into the large section of Ohio supporters.
The Wolverines were able to put together a nice run of their own to shorten the gap to 13-9, which led to the Bobcats using their first timeout of the second set. At this point in the match, Juliana Paz was pacing Michigan with six kills on .263 hitting from the floor.
Jacobi was able to break up the home team's run as she very accurately killed another right past the defense. Post and Jantsch formed a wall above the net during the next point, blocking a Michigan attack harmlessly to the ground to put the `Cats up 15-9.
With the Wolverines fighting back tenaciously, Jantsch slyly tip-killed a ball right into the heart of the Michigan side, making four defenders dive for it to no avail.
Michigan almost tied it up with the score at 17-16 before Herman nicely placed a ball just past the outstretched defense. The Wolverines were then able to take the next two points thanks to solid play on both sides of the ball, tying it up at 18. Simons answered back with a kill of her own to help Ohio re-take the lead.
Both teams knew what was at stake and refused to budge an inch, as they see-sawed points back and forth before the `Cats pushed the match to set point on Simons' fourth kill of the night. The Wolverines kept at it, however, and came up with a huge block by Zimmerman and Karlee Bruck to tie the scores at 24.
Ohio perfectly diagrammed a play during its timeout at 24-all, as Petrulis and Jantsch beautifully set up Simons for an emphatic kill. An attack by Michigan that flew just long gave the `Cats the second game by a score of 26-24.
With the teams heading to their respective locker rooms at halftime, Ohio was hitting .195 while limiting Michigan to .172 from the floor. Herman had accumulated 13 kills on the night, leaving her just five behind the all-time Mid-American Conference record (1,975 set by Ball State's Sarah Obras). Post came up huge for the Green and White in the first two sets, accounting for two solo blocks and four block assists.
Michigan came out strong in the third set, taking the first two points before Herman hit her 14th kill of the match. The Wolverines responded right back with kill by Bruck to take a 3-1 lead. They later extended it to 5-1 before Herman added another kill to break up the run.
The Wolverines were absolutely on fire in the beginning of the third set, sprinting out to a 7-2 lead on .625 hitting before the Bobcats called for a timeout to talk things over. What was discussed seemed to work, as Herman and Simons combined for a big block on the first point after the timeout, which was then followed by another brick wall put up by Simons and Jacobi.
Michigan kept firing on all cylinders throughout the middle part of the third set, pushing its lead to 14-5 on a Hunt kill. The Wolverines won another point before Nichols fired home her first kill of the match. Just a few moments later, Megan Bower and Bruck combined for big block, putting the Bobcats in a deep deficit midway through the third.
Herman hit her 17th kill--tying the current conference record--with the `Cats trailing 7-22. The Green and White were able to put together a nice run, winning six of the next seven points to shorten the gap, forcing the Wolverines to take a timeout at 23-13. The Maize and Blue were able to string together two in a row after the timeout, taking the third set by a 25-13 mark. Michigan hit .321 in the third set while holding the Bobcats to .000 from the floor.
Michigan continued its hot streak into the fourth set, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead. Jacobi hit a kill to halve the host's early lead. When the Wolverines went up 3-1, she fired an even better attack into the corner, cutting the lead to one.
With the Bobcats down 6-3, Herman recorded her 18th kill of the match, a kill that crowned her as the all-time leader in MAC history. Unfortunately for Ohio, the Wolverines kept on scoring, pushing the lead to 14-7 before Herman added another kill to break up the momentum. Her next attack was met by a massive solo block by Bruck, giving the serve right back to regional hosts.
Post and Jacobi came back with an equally big block of their own, siding out at an important juncture in the match. Jacobi caught fire at this point, guiding a kill into the back corner of the Michigan defense. She added another just moments later, accumulating her 14th of the match. Post followed this with an acrobatic play...after Jacobi swung on an attack that was blocked straight up by the Michigan defense, Post alertly tipped it just inches over the net to win the point. Thanks to a kill by Herman seconds later, the `Cats found themselves only down by two at 18-16.
A few good points by Michigan stretched the lead, but a huge block by Simons and Robins brought it back to two. The Wolverines were later able to extend the lead to four on a kill by Bower, forcing the Bobcats to take a timeout at 22-18.
Ohio fought off one set point but ultimately fell by a score of 25-20 in the fourth set. Both teams hit for a high percentage in the set, as Ohio reached .235 and Michigan hit .353.
Michigan started strong in the fifth, taking the first three points before Jantsch came up with a clutch kill to put the `Cats on the board.
Ohio fought back from a 7-2 deficit to push the score to 7-5 before Juliana Paz hit her 16th kill of the evening to halt the Bobcat run.
The `Cats kept clawing their way back into the fifth set, forcing Michigan to take a timeout with a razor-thin one point lead at 11-10. They tied it up right after the timeout on a massive kill by Herman, her 25th of the night. The Green and White lost the next point but immediately bounced back with another kill by the senior from Toledo.
At 13-all the Wolverines were able to side-out and punch their ticket to the Sweet 16 on the next point when Paz hit a kill just past the Ohio defense.
"Everything is a learning experience," said Theis. "The juniors will learn from this year about how the seniors lead and they'll try and reciprocate that."
The Bobcats finished the season with a 27-7 record en route to capturing their sixth MAC title in the last seven years.