Sophomore setter Abby Gilleland is the catalyst for an Ohio University volleyball offense that ranks first in the Mid-American Conference with a .264 hitting percentage.Her 10.69 assists a set rank fourth in the conference and helped the Bobcats win the MAC’s regular-season and tournament championships.
Her career-best 61 assists helped Ohio (27-5) clinch the league’s East Division title last month.
But all of the numbers she has piled up this season have little meaning to Gilleland, a Marian Central graduate from Bull Valley.
“They really don’t,” Gilleland said. “I get assists because my hitters put the ball away. It’s a big circle.”
Her 1,272 successful sets this season had plenty to do with Ohio earning a spot in the NCAA tournament this weekend at a regional in Lexington, Ky.
Gilleland’s play also gained notice from league coaches, who chose her as the MAC’s Player of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection.
“Our team is so balanced,” Gilleland said. “We have so many threats from so many different parts of the court. I wasn’t sure any of us would win (Player of the Year) because of our balance. So, that was a surprise.”
Gilleland also was named the league’s Setter of the Year, a first for an Ohio program that has appeared in the NCAAs nine times in the past 13 seasons.
“I love to represent Ohio volleyball,” Gilleland said. “I’m so happy to be here. It’s nice to get an award and represent our program well.”
One of the main beneficiaries of Gilleland’s sets is junior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti, a Cary-Grove grad who ranked eighth in the conference with a team-best 3.13 kills a set. Lamberti, last season’s MAC Player of the Year, joined Gilleland on the first team this year.
Lamberti was one of four Ohio players named to the All-MAC first team and is a big source of pride for Gilleland.
“One thing that really makes me proud is when our sets and kills that are part of the game plan work,” Gilleland said. “One of our hitters (junior Liis Kullerkann) had a great game in the MAC final. To see someone go off like that and get a career high is great. That’s fun for me.”
Kullerkann’s 15 kills in a 3-0 win against Eastern Michigan guided Ohio back to the NCAAs after missing out the past two seasons.
“We’re a young team, so to get this experience now is really going to pay off in the long run,” Gilleland said.
Synon shines: Zach Synon, a redshirt freshman wrestler at Missouri, won his first open tournament championship last month by claiming the 125-pound title at the University of Central Missouri Open.
Synon, a Prairie Ridge grad, allowed only three points in five tournament victories, including a 5-0 triumph against Oklahoma State’s Connor Cline in the final. For the season, Synon has a 15-4 record. Crystal Lake Central grad Trevor Jauch is 7-3 at 141 pounds for Mizzou.
Redbird recognition: Cary-Grove grad Ashley Rosch, a sophomore outside hitter at Illinois State, was named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team in women’s volleyball.
Rosch led the Redbirds (19-13) with 389 kills and had 298 digs. Rosch, who also was named to the MVC’s All-Tournament team, ranked sixth in the conference in kills a set (3.21) and 20th in digs a set (2.46).
Leading linebackers: Winona State’s Collin Corcoran and Southwest Minnesota State’s J.J. Bobrowicz were both selected to the All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference teams as linebackers last month.
Corcoran, a sophomore at D-II Winona (Minn.) State, led the Warriors (6-5) with nine sacks this season and ranked third on the team with 67 tackles. The Prairie Ridge grad also led Winona with 12.5 tackles for loss while earning second-team honors in the NSIC South Division.
Bobrowicz, a senior from Crystal Lake Central, collected 68 tackles, including seven tackles for loss and three sacks for the Mustangs (7-4). He was selected to the South Division team as an honorable mention choice.
NACC football honors: Crystal Lake South grad Tyler Simmons, a senior defensive end at D-III Aurora University, was named first-team All-Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference in football.
Simmons led the Spartans (3-7) with 16.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks while collecting 48 tackles. He also forced two fumbles and had two fumble recoveries.
The All-NACC second team included Concordia Chicago senior offensive tackle Scott Ilich. The Crystal Lake Central grad was part of an offense for the Cougars (2-8) that scored 29.7 points and averaged more than 400 yards in conference games.
Aurora’s defensive stat leaders also included senior linebacker Christian Rago (Woodstock), who ranked second on the team with 56 tackles.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.