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Ohio State women’s volleyball looks to extend winning streak in final non-conference weekend

OSU senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell (17) prepares to hit the ball during a match against Florida State on Sept. 6 at St. John Arena. Credit: Ashley Roudebush / For The Lantern

OSU senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell (17) prepares to hit the ball during a match against Florida State on Sept. 6 at St. John Arena. Credit: Ashley Roudebush / For The Lantern

With a demanding Big Ten schedule looming, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team has one more opportunity for a tune-up before it begins conference play.

Coming off two straight tournament wins and riding an eight-match winning streak, No. 13 OSU is scheduled to head north this weekend to play in the Golden Grizzlies Invitational in Rochester, Michigan.

On Friday, OSU is set to play Eastern Illinois (5-5) at noon and Western Michigan (2-9) at 7 p.m., followed by a match against host Oakland (3-7) on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Although his squad is playing three teams with underwhelming records, coach Geoff Carlston said he is prepared to get the best shot of each one.

“They’re not going to be as physical as Arizona, but they’re going to pass and play defense probably better than a lot of teams we’ve seen,” Carlston said. “So they’re going to make you earn it. If you’re making tons of mistakes, you’re going to lose.”

Carlston said he is pleased with the start that his team has gotten off to this season, but is preaching balance to his players as they head into the weekend and look ahead to their conference schedule.

“You can’t get bummed out when you lose because you can play really well and lose,” Carlston said. “And you sometimes you can grind out wins and you can’t feel like you’re the best team in the world, either. You just have to stay steady and confident.”

Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell said keeping the focus on playing together as a team and controlling the tempo of the game will be important if the Buckeyes want to extend their winning streak.

“I know that these teams this weekend aren’t necessarily ranked like we had played the previous weekends, but everyone’s good at what they do,” Campbell said.

Carlston has kept practice light during the short week to keep his players fresh as OSU gets into the grind of its schedule.

“With our Big Ten schedule and how it shapes up, if we’re going to rest a little bit, this is the time to do it,” he said.

Versatility at setter

Both OSU setters have seen plenty of playing time in the early going of the season. Freshman Taylor Hughes leads the Buckeyes with 198 assists, but senior Emily Ruetter is not far behind with 172.

Carlston compared the situation to what’s going on at quarterback for the OSU football team with Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett.

“We have two very good setters,” he said. “They are very different personalities. You’re going to get a different look. Emily is just steady, steady, steady, and Taylor Hughes is more physical … The two of them together is a really neat combination.”

León wins Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Week

After being named the most valuable player of the Blackbird Invitational last weekend, the awards didn’t stop there for Valeria León. The junior libero was also named the Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Week — alongside Michigan State middle blocker Megan Tompkins — for her efforts in Brooklyn, New York.

León had a tournament-high 71 digs, including 35 against then-No. 13 Arizona, the second-best single-game total in OSU history. She has been named to the all-tournament team in all three of OSU’s non-conference competitions. León said she feels that she’s playing at the top of her game right now.

“I feel like I worked really hard this summer and preseason,” she said. “I feel like my hard work is just finally paying off. We can only get better from here.”

What’s next?

The conference schedule is scheduled to begin for the Buckeyes on Sept. 23 when they host No. 23 Minnesota at St. John Arena, the first of four straight home matchups to kick off Big Ten play.

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