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Ohio State-Notre Dame set for NCAA showdown in women’s volleyball

Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor

The accolades continue to shower members of the Ohio State women’s volleyball team as they prepare to battle Notre Dame (20-9) in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Friday at 5 p.m. in Lexington, Ky.
Senior outside hitters Mari Hole and Emily Danks, along with junior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary earned All-Big Ten honors on Tuesday.
“Yeah, of course it means a lot to me, and I hope it means a lot to the team as well,” Hole said. “It shows that I had a good season overall, but I also know that I would have never gotten this award without the support of my team. So personally, I see it as more of a team honor than an individual honor.”
For the fourth consecutive year, the Buckeyes, which are ranked No. 14 nationally, capped another 20-plus-win season with a record of 22-10 and earned an at-large bid for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
With back-to-back losses against No. 1-ranked Penn State Nov. 21 and rival Michigan on Senior Night Friday, the Buckeyes might have not envisioned their regular season ending the way it did.
But it could serve as a driving force in the postseason.
“I think one of our strengths is after our losses we’re pretty good about evaluating, going back and learning what we can fix for next time,” Danks said. “I think going back, watching (game tapes), correcting some things and getting us back into our top game will be perfect for the tournament. It will be great motivation and get us fired up.”
Nor have the losses necessarily rattled OSU coach Geoff Carlston.
“In the Big Ten, you can’t have any memory, you can’t get too excited, you can’t get too down, and so I think this team is pretty grounded that way,” Carlston said. “I’m not worried about it. I think overall our trajectory in our last 10 or 11 matches was definitely going up.”
Playing away from the comforts of St. John Arena might also play into the Buckeyes’ favor.
Compared to a 7-6 mark in games held in Columbus, OSU notched an 11-2 road record – a fact that Carlston is well aware of.
“This team has really thrived on the road,” Carlston said. “One of the best road teams in the country.”
Hole said the location of the game is not that important.
“Whether you’re at home or on the road really doesn’t mean that much to us,” she said. “We know it’s going to be tough either way.”
In the past two seasons, Carlston’s team has made it to the tournament’s Sweet 16 and he explained what his team needs to do to get the opportunity of going even farther.
“We just got to stay healthy first of all, and then just being consistent and staying aggressive,” Carlston said. “Notre Dame is a great team and so we got to really stay focused. Focus on one game at a time.”
Hole said she likes her team’s chances against the Fighting Irish.
“I think we really have a good shot if we play our game, I think we will win,” Hole said. “So we’re just going in with that mentality that we have to play our game, knowing that it will be a tough game and we will have to battle for every point.”
Danks, who has had plenty of NCAA Tournament experience in her four years in Columbus, said coming together mentally in critical moments of the game will be key.
“I think our biggest issue is just recognizing when we’re kind of in a slump during a game and when we’re losing these run of points, how are we going to get out of it,” Danks said. “I think that will be our greatest thing just everyone being a good self monitor and just be in it for long games.”
For Danks, the NCAA Tournament will be her last time representing the Scarlet and Gray.
“It’s kind of cool being a senior now,” Danks said. “I actually ran into an ex-player that was a year ahead of me, she (wore) No. 1 (on her jersey) before I got here. I told her I really try to do your number justice and do you good. So I don’t know, it’s really been a big honor to see this program kind of go on the rise.”  

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