The women’s volleyball team is ready for its biggest match this season.
After finishing fourth in the Big Ten, the women’s volleyball team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes will face Cincinnati, No. 2 in the Big East, in the first round.
The Buckeyes have made immense improvements since last season, when they finished 10th in the conference with an overall record of 12-20.
The success of the Buckeyes, who were not expected to make it to the NCAA Tournament this season, has surprised many.
“We put a lot of work in the offseason and we were ready to prove people wrong,” middle blocker Kristen Dozier said.
Dozier and the rest of the team understand there is never a guarantee of going to the NCAA Tournament. She was a contributor on the 2006 team that reached the field of 64 tournament.
“As a freshman I think I took it for granted and I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do this year,” Dozier said. “Now I really just want to make a statement in the tournament.”
Although the Buckeyes fell short of the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 this week, they received 39 votes, their most this season.
Coach Geoff Carlston acknowledged that the tournament has higher stakes than the regular season, but the team is treating it like every other match. “The goal is the same as we have had all year, to stay in the moment and have no regrets,” Carlston said.
The Buckeyes are thriving off of 3-0 sweeps against Michigan and Michigan State and hope to carry the momentum into the tournament.
“[Competing in] the Big Ten prepares you for everything, every match this year was a complete battle,” Carlston said.
Cincinnati is expected to play aggressively with big serves and swings.
“We will not be taking them lightly in any way, shape or form,” Carlston said. “There just aren’t any weak teams at this stage in the season.”
Carlston said the Buckeyes want to make the most out of the NCAA Tournament opportunity for their three seniors, Kristen Dozier, Ashley Hughes and Chelsea Noble.
“We stress upon them to enjoy the experience, to play to the best of their ability, to not waste the gift,” Carlston said. “Emotions are always high but our goal is for them to not take the opportunity for granted.”
Along with the team receiving the at-large bid, several Buckeyes earned individual accolades this week.
Dozier received an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection.
She has a team-high 83 assist blocks and is second in points and kills.
Junior Katie Dull was a unanimous choice for the All-Big Ten team.
She leads the team in both points and kills and ranks third in the conference in both categories.
The Buckeyes hold an all-time record of 23-15 in 16 NCAA Tournament appearances.
Ohio State will host the first and second round matches at St. John Arena on Friday and Saturday.
The Buckeyes will play Cincinnati Friday at 8 p.m., following the California-Lipscomb match.
First round winners will play Saturday at 7 p.m. for the regional semifinals, held Dec. 11 in Gainesville.