A dominant effort from junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe propelled the No. 14 Ohio State women’s volleyball team (21-6, 10-5) to a comeback win against No. 16 Illinois (17-9, 8-7) on Wednesday.
Sandbothe recorded her first career double-double on 19 kills and a career-high 11 blocks (one solo), registering a game-high 25 points as the Buckeyes came away with a win in four sets (16-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-23) in St. John Arena to complete a season sweep of the Fighting Illini.
“You can’t take points off,” Sandbothe said. “I don’t get the opportunity to be that player and I don’t want to be that player.”
Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell also left her mark on the game with 16 kills and 13 digs, her 10th double-double of the season.
“It’s a product of the whole team,” Campbell said. “Being able to get a really good dig or setting up a good block makes it easier for us to be able to distribute the ball all over the place.”
After missing two games as she continues to deal with a left elbow injury, freshman setter Taylor Hughes returned to the starting lineup and led all players with 47 assists, along with four blocks and three kills.
With 14 total blocks, OSU was able to hold Illinois to a .163 hitting percentage for the match. Junior libero Valeria León played a pivotal role in the strong defensive effort, picking up a game-high 19 digs.
The Buckeyes also struggled on the offensive end through the first two sets as the Fighting Illini had 10 of their 11 blocks for the game. But OSU came alive in the third and fourth frames with a combined .373 attack percentage and only six errors.
Campbell said a win over an Illinois team that came into the contest on a four-match winning streak will help her team’s confidence moving forward after losing four of its last six games.
“It feels really good to get a really good win against a really good team, just helping us finish these last few games out strong,” she said.
After a three straight games on the road, being back at home also helped the Buckeyes.
“We wanted to get back in our house this week,” Sandbothe said. “We’ve got a big week ahead of us to show what we’re about, what we’ve been working hard on all practice last week (and) just bringing that to light.”
OSU got into a deep hole early on in contest, finding itself down 9-1 quickly in the first set. Sandbothe tried to get her team back in it with three kills and four blocks, but the Buckeyes could never close the gap to less than five as they dropped the opening frame.
That would be the only set dropped by the Scarlet and Gray on the night, however, as they battled back to take the next three. Getting back to the gameplan was crucial in the comeback effort for the Buckeyes.
“Our coaches had talked to us about having a fast tempo on our sets and really limiting our errors,” Campbell said. “I think that we gave them a lot of points in that first set.”
Sandbothe continued her dominance in the second set, but the result was different for her team as it evened the match at one.
She picked up seven kills and her four blocks helped hold Illinois to a .000 hitting percentage for the set. Things were closely contested until the junior went on a tear, as she had a hand in six of eight Buckeye points to fuel an 8-1 run and give her team a 20-10 advantage to put things out of reach.
The momentum stayed on the home side in the third set. Led by seven kills from Campbell and five more from Sandbothe, the Buckeyes attacked at a .415 clip and never trailed, taking a 2-1 lead.
The Buckeyes found themselves down for much of the deciding frame, trailing by as many as five points, but worked their way back to tie the Fighting Illini at 18.
From there, the two teams went back and forth, looking poised to go to extra points with the game knotted up at 23, but a Sandbothe kill and a block by Hughes and senior middle blocker Tyler Richardson ended the match.
OSU will be back in action on Saturday when they are scheduled to take on Michigan in St. John Arena. The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.