After a 2-8 start in Big Ten play, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team is focused on returning to its winning ways.
“We’re craving for a win right now,” senior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo said.
The Buckeyes, who fell out of the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll Monday for the first time all season, are scheduled to travel to Michigan for two more conference matches against ranked opponents Friday and Saturday.
OSU is set to take on No. 14 Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., at 6:30 p.m. Friday before heading to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a match against No. 17 Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday.
After a 13-0 start to the season, which included a 3-1 win over then-No. 10 Michigan to open Big Ten play Sept. 27, the then-No. 13 Buckeyes fell to then-No. 15 Michigan State 3-0 Sept. 29. That loss sparked a 1-8 stretch for OSU, including the team’s current six-match losing streak.
“I felt like the first half of the season, we were there, but it just got away from us a little bit,” Mandolfo said.
Junior outside hitter Erin Sekinger said having another crack at the Spartans could spark the team as it enters the second half of the conference season.
“I feel like beating Michigan State will be a really upbeat positive for us, just to prove to ourselves that we can do this the second time around,” she said. “It will probably bring a big positive energy throughout our team.”
Freshman outside hitter Kylie Randall called the prospect of beating Michigan State “awesome,” especially on the road.
“We’ve grown as a team since then and we’re both kind of struggling right now,” Randall said. “I think it will be great to beat them at their place.”
The Spartans (17-5, 6-4) are in the midst of a four-match losing streak of their own. They dropped their most recent outing to unranked Indiana Oct. 26. The Hoosiers, whom OSU beat in five sets Oct. 5 in Bloomington, Ind., are tied for last in the conference with Iowa at 1-9.
While the Buckeyes and Spartans will battle to end their respective losing streaks, OSU must also prepare for a date with the Wolverines . Even though OSU has beaten the Wolverines this season, Mandolfo said the Buckeyes will not overlook Michigan.
“Every game is a huge game, regardless of if we have beaten Michigan before,” she said. “They’re just as hungry for a win as we are.”
Randall said she is excited about the chance to play more home games the rest of the way.
The trip up north will mark the end of a stretch of five of six games on the road for the Buckeyes. From that point on, OSU is scheduled to play five of its final eight matches in Columbus.
While playing at home can be a boost, Sekinger said “doing the little things” will help the Buckeyes improve on their rough start.
“Covering hitters, passing balls, hitting smarter shots, just the little things and getting back to the basics of playing volleyball (will help),” she said.
After the road trip, OSU is scheduled to host Indiana at St. John Arena Nov. 8.