It was a rocky start for the Western Michigan University volleyball team, but the Broncos came back to defeat the University of Ohio on Saturday, 3-1 (14-25, 25-16, 25-17, 25-19).
With the victory, WMU goes to 14-7 overall, with a 7-3 record in conference play, good for first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division standings. The Broncos also improved their home record to an undefeated 7-0 with the win. For Ohio, the loss drops them to 11-13 overall, and 5-5 in MAC play.
Ohio came out hitting to start the match, scoring the first five points in the set, en route to a 13-7 Bobcat lead before Western Michigan called their first timeout. The set would continue to spiral out of control for the Broncos, as Ohio would build a 20-9 lead, and eventually win the set, 25-14. Ohio’s hitting was stellar in the set, hitting .300 as a team, helped out by six kills from freshman middle blocker Tia Jimerson.
The Broncos came back strong in the second set, with senior middle blocker Sydney LeMay taking control early. LeMay had two blocks and two kills in the span of five points, en route to a quick 7-2 lead to open the set. WMU wouldn’t let off the gas pedal after the Ohio timeout, eventually building a 19-9 lead, and never looking back, winning the second set, 25-16, and going to the break tied at one set apiece.
The third set could be summed up as the Rachel Bontrager show. The Broncos’ freshman outside hitter had a phenomenal set all-around, racking up eight kills, with six coming on a 12-2 run in the middle of the set, and two aces on consecutive serves. LeMay went five-for-five hitting in the set, as the Broncos pulled away down by two, 14-12, to win the advantage in the set, at 25-17.
Ohio wouldn’t go away quietly, though. The Bobcats raced out to an early 5-1 lead in the fourth set, helped out by two kills from Jimerson. WMU would come right back, though, going on a 7-3 run, helped out by four kills from Bontrager, a kill, block, and ace from LeMay, and a kill from senior middle blocker Olivia Kofie. The set would go back and forth from there, with nine tie scores and four lead changes, but the Broncos would eventually pull out the victory, with a kill from junior setter Mary Murphy to end the match.
Statistically, the Broncos were led by Bontrager, who racked up 20 kills for the second match in a row, and third time overall this season. LeMay hit an outstanding .647 for the match, netting up 12 kills, moving her into eighth all-time in that category, and added five total blocks (one solo, four assisted). Sophomore libero Kathleen Reilly had 18 digs to lead the team, as well as a service ace, and Murphy had 39 assists and a service ace on the night.
“It’s definitely not a plan to lose the first set, that’s for sure,” Broncos head coach Colleen Munson said after the game. “Ohio is a great team, and they came out aggressive. We had to respond by playing hard on our side of the court.”
For Ohio, Jimerson was their statistical leader, with 18 kills and a solo block on the evening. Their lead hitter, sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens, was held to just six kills and a block, and also added three aces. Sophomore libero Meredith Howe had 13 kills for the Bobcats, and freshman setter Vera Giacomazzi tallied 37 assists.
Next up for the Broncos will be a road contest at Northern Illinois University on Wednesday at 8 p.m., followed by a home tilt against Bowling Green State University on Saturday at 7 p.m.