Nov. 30, 2011
Ohio Volleyball enjoyed another successful season with 23 wins, a MAC East title, numerous wins over big-name programs and when all was said and done, had four players earn All-MAC recognition.
The 2011 season started with Ohio Volleyball picked as the favorite to win the Mid-American Conference East Division. The Bobcats received 11 of the division's 12 first place votes, as Katie Post and Lexie Hartnett were named preseason All-MAC selections.
The non-conference portion of the 2011 slate featured eight NCAA Tournament teams from last season with the first six opponents averaging 22 wins apiece in 2010. The Bobcats earned wins over BCS-conference opponents Maryland, Villanova, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh as they racked up a number of awards.
Post was one of four Bobcats to earn all-tournament honors during the non-conference portion of the 2011 schedule. The senior led the team with three selections while Hartnett, Chelsea Bilger and Kelly Lamberti also garnered honors.
The development of the freshmen early on was something the Bobcats reaped dividends from the rest of the season. Lamberti, Bilger and Bailey Karst were starters all season and by the end of the year, were standouts in MAC play.
The Bobcats rolled through their first six conference matches, dropping only one set as swept through the division for a first time and earned a road win at Eastern Michigan.
Hartnett was named the East Division's Defensive Player of the Week twice as she finished with nine kills and a match-high seven blocks against BG and followed that with six kills, hitting .545 in the process, and six blocks in the win over the RedHawks.
The speed bump came in the middle of the season when the Bobcats dropped three of four matches to NCAA qualifying teams and slipped out of the regular-season title discussion.
Despite the losses, Lamberti and Post continued their strong play. Lamberti earned Offensive Player of the Week honors two weeks in a row after notching a double-double with 12 kills and 16 digs in four sets with then-MAC leader Ball State. She followed that performance with a match-high 16 kills to go along with five blocks, her most in conference play, during a win over Toledo. She also reached the 100-kill mark against the Rockets, the eighth league match of her career.
Post was named Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week when she had four solo blocks and 15 total blocks in the two Bobcat matches against BSU and Toledo. Her nine blocks against Toledo was a season-best for the senior in MAC play and her three solo blocks against the Cardinals was also a season-high. In addition to her blocking, she also registered 19 kills and hit .306 with 10 kills against BSU and nine against UT.
However, Ohio regrouped, starting with a five-set win over MAC Champion Central Michigan, to take their final six matches in league play. The Bobcats had the MAC East wrapped up with two weeks to go, going 10-0 against Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, Bowling Green and Miami. Ohio's run saw it wrap up second place in the conference with a Senior Night sweep of Akron.
Four Bobcats received Mid-American Conference regular season volleyball awards as Post and Lamberti were named First Team All-MAC, Hartnett earned second team honors and Lamberti joined Chelsea Bilger on the All-Freshman Team.
Post earned first-team accolades for a second time after leading the league in blocking and ranking 13th nationally with 1.42 per set. Post also ranked third in the league in hitting percentage (.354) and eighth in total points. She also tied the Ohio record for block assists over a career with 436.
Lamberti finished her first season, second in the league in point scoring behind MAC Player of the Year Lauren Wicinski. The freshman also ranked second in kills and fifth in serving, with an average of 0.29 aces per set. Lamberti led Ohio in double-doubles with 19.
Hartnett received All-MAC honors for a second time after helping Ohio rank 19th in the nation in blocks per set. The redshirt sophomore ranked third in the MAC in blocks per set and placed second with 117.0 total blocks.
Bilger was selected to the All-Freshman Team after finishing second on the Bobcats in kills and third in points. She racked up 12 double-doubles this season, eight in conference action.
Ohio finished their season ranked 22nd nationally with an average of 2.67 per set. The Bobcats averaged 2.71 blocks per set in MAC play and also boasted the best defense in the league, holding opponents to an average hitting percentage of .168. Ohio also had three of the top five blockers in Post, Hartnett and Faith Robins.
Despite falling in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament to eventual champion Central Michigan, the Bobcats responded by defeating Cincinnati, owners of the No. 18 RPI in the nation and winners of the Big East. The Bearcats also owned the longest home winning streak in the nation, a span of 48 matches over the past five seasons, before seeing it snapped by Ohio in five sets.
As "Selection Sunday" approached, the Bobcats had a ranking of 49 in the final RPI. The NCAA selection committee's cut off turned out to be No. 48, leaving Ohio as the first team to be left out of the NCAA Tournament. Seniors Post and Nicole Staverman graduate with 96 wins, a 51-13 record against MAC opponents, three MAC titles, and back-to-back appearances in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite missing the NCAA Tournament, Ohio Volleyball has a history of success that is evident when you look at the banners in rafters touting the program's accomplishments. The Bobcats may lose Post and Staverman, but return five of six starters and their top three players off the bench. The future looks even brighter with the addition of two players, Karin Bull and Abby Gilleland.
Gilleland, a 5-10 setter, was All-Conference and Academic All-Conference the last two seasons at Marian Central Catholic. She was recently named the Northwest Herald Player of the Year for the state of Illinois, an accomplishment earned last season by current Bobcat Lamberti. Bull, a 6-2 middle blocker, earned All-Conference honors at Bloomington Kennedy and over her three years, has accumulated over 500 kills, almost 300 blocks and over 350 digs while maintaining a hitting percentage of .370.
"I'm very proud of our season. To be one spot out of the NCAA tournament is gut-wrenching, but it taught this extremely young team the importance of every match," Head Coach Ryan Theis said. "Finishing the season on a winning note over Cincinnati (No. 20 RPI in the country) makes this team, the program and hopefully our fans very excited about the future."