Injuries and illness have taken a toll on the Ohio State women’s volleyball team as the season has worn on, as it has lost five of its last eight matches.
This week has been no different for coach Geoff Carlston’s team, as an illness has made its way around the roster. Nonetheless, the No. 16 Buckeyes (21-7, 10-6) will try to get back on track when they travel west to battle with Iowa (12-17, 2-14) on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
“We’ve been trying to back off a lot,” Carlston said. “It’s hard to sharpen the blade when you can’t do it. As a staff, we’re trying to find a balance between trying to keep us healthy, but it hasn’t seemed to work.”
Freshman setter Taylor Hughes has been in and out of the lineup since suffering an elbow injury on Oct. 21, while senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell has missed the last two games with an illness.
To rediscover its form on the court after an ugly loss to Michigan on Saturday, Carlston said OSU just needs to get back to believing in itself.
“I think we just have to remind ourselves that we’re a pretty good team and we’ve had a really good journey so far,” Carlston said.
Much of the Buckeyes’ early-season success was fueled by the team playing with a chip on its shoulder. Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell said “getting back to that underdog mentality” is crucial to get back to the winning ways.
“We just need to get back to our fundamentals, stay focused,” junior outside hitter Kylie Randall said. “We still have a lot of games left … we still definitely have a chance to improve.”
In the first meeting of the season between OSU and Iowa, the Buckeyes came out victorious in four sets, marking their 13th straight victory against the Hawkeyes.
After posting a 10-3 record in nonconference play and garnering national attention in the form of votes in the coaches poll, the going started to get tough for Iowa in conference play, winning just two games against Big Ten foes.
However, OSU has seen that records don’t mean much, evidenced by its Nov. 6 loss against a Maryland team that entered the game with a 2-11 conference record.
“Especially if we’re kicking and scratching with our health, it’s a tough match,” Carlston said of the upcoming tilt against the Hawkeyes. “They run a very fast offense (and) they’ve given a lot of teams problems.”
Iowa picked up its only two conference wins recently against Rutgers on Oct. 31 and Indiana on Nov. 4. Then, on Nov. 7, the Hawkeyes took then-No. 16 Purdue to five sets before falling.
Campbell said she believes OSU will have its work cut out for it in defending the quick-paced attack of Iowa.
“They have a pretty distributed, fast offense, so just being ready defensively in our blocking game to be up fast and challenge their tempos,” she said.
The Hawkeyes currently rank third in the conference in service aces per set with 1.20. To combat that strength and bring home the win, Campbell said the Buckeyes are prepared to be “challenging the passing lanes” all match long.
A big rematch is set to be on tap for OSU on Saturday, when it is set to travel to Madison looking to complete another season sweep against Wisconsin. Back on Sept. 27, the Buckeyes defeated the Badgers in Columbus in five sets. The first serve is scheduled for 2 p.m.