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Buckeyes return home for Big Ten matchup

The Ohio State women’s volleyball team will play in front of a home crowd for the first time in a month Friday night, fresh off a 12-game, three-week road trip.

The Buckeyes completed almost their entire non-conference schedule on the road, winning nine non-conference road matches during the stretch and losing only to 16th-ranked Kentucky (1-3). They also split in Big Ten play during the trip, defeating Wisconsin (3-2) and dropping all three sets to ninth-ranked Illinois.

Going 12 games without a home crowd’s support isn’t easy, but it was an early learning experience for the team.

“We had to rely on ourselves to bring energy,” senior middle blocker Allie Schwarzwalder said. “We had to stick together through the good games and the bad games.”

The trip may have been a success, but the Buckeyes are eager to get used to the routine of playing in front of a home crowd again. “It’s going to be great to actually sleep in my own bed before the match,” sophomore outside hitter Emily Danks said.

There is no better team to return home to play than OSU’s bitter rival to the north.

“Michigan is a good way to open the home season,” senior setter Betsy Hone said. “I think it will be a very good crowd.”

Although back in the comfort of St. John Arena, the Buckeyes know they have their work cut out for them to navigate the grueling Big Ten schedule.

“We have a goal to be Big Ten champs, the Big Ten is wide open this year,” Hone said. “It’s a long season, obviously you want to steal games on the road and protect your house at home.”

This is exactly the part of the schedule that the team has been waiting for.

“It’s definitely a lot more fun playing the Big Ten schools,” Schwarzwalder said. “The student sections are awesome, bigger turnout for Big Ten games always get you a little nervous.”

The Buckeyes know that to compete, they have to improve week-to-week starting with defense. “Defense wins championships so we have been trying to settle down our defense and get into a rhythm,” Hone said.

The Buckeyes’ experience will come in handy throughout the rest of the schedule.

“This is probably one of the most experienced teams of the four years that I have been here,” Hone said.

That experience plus a deep bench puts the Buckeyes in the mix to contend for the Big Ten title.

“I think this is the biggest year for potential for us,” Schwarzwalder said. “We just have a lot of depth.”

Friday, the Buckeyes will finally get to play in front of a scarlet-and-gray crowd, and would love to see as much of it as possible.

The fact that the Buckeyes have learned to play so well on the road will be key as they continue through the season, but may spell trouble for teams welcoming the Buckeyes onto their home court.

“I think we are going to do good things,” Hone said.

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