Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
In what might stand as one the biggest games of the year, the No. 20 Ohio State women’s volleyball team came out swinging in front of its home crowd Wednesday evening at St. John arena against the No. 1 team in the country, Penn State.
It wasn’t good enough to topple the Nittany Lions, though, as the Buckeyes fell to their conference rival, 3-0.
While the game went back and forth, PSU’s play in the contest’s most critical moments dropped the Buckeyes to 14-7 overall record.
Early in the second set of the game, the Nittany Lions roared out to a commanding 7-0 lead. Ensuing pressure forced coach OSU Geoff Carlston to call a timeout.
“After that timeout, we just brought it in on the court and decided that we know what we need to do,” said senior setter Amanda Peterson. “It’s us on the court, we know exactly what to do; let’s just do it. We made a collective decision that we’re not going to go down like this, we’re going to go down swinging.”
With a new rekindled energy, the Buckeyes started their comeback with a 6-0 run and evaporated PSU’s lead to one. Although the Buckeyes stepped up as a team, senior outside hitter Emily Danks lauded one particular teammate.
“Davionna (DiSalvatore), our libero, she played lights out,” Danks said. “She covered so many balls, dug so many balls up and when things looked hopeless, here she comes out of nowhere. She played awesome, and I’m so proud of her. I think everyone just had enough and stepped up at that point.”
The Buckeyes eventually lost the second and third set 25-19 and 25-22, respectively.
“I think the toughest thing about really close matches just all the time is that you were so close,” Peterson said. “It was just those couple of mistakes that you can think of that you’re like, ‘If I didn’t do this, we could’ve won.’ It’s those few couple of points that are just weighing on your brain. If you can fix those things, we could’ve won.”
Inconsistency and making better defensive plays, specifically second reads and balls, were things Carlston said his team needs to get better at.
The most frustrating thing to him, however, was the fact that his team hung tough with the top team in the country before falling in the end.
“Well, I think we were right there,” Carlston said. “We talk about it a lot, practice it a lot and, you know, after the 18, 19, 20 points, that’s when … if you’re going to win, if you’re going to beat the No. 1 team in the country, that’s when you need to be at your best and we weren’t tonight, we made too many mistakes. Hats off to Penn State, they did what they do a lot, they played best at the end, and you know, it’s frustrating because I think we were right there.”
Consistency, as in staying aggressive, is something Carlston has emphasized throughout the year, and once again he pointed out this is something his team needs to continue to get better at.
“You can’t make so many mistakes, and we got to play aggressive all the time,” Carlston said. “We can’t play aggressive 80 percent of the time; we can’t play great at 80 percent of the time because that gets you losing by three or four points. You know, you got to put your foot on the gas and keep doing it … We just didn’t do it tonight at all.”
Danks said she understands what separates mediocre teams from the good teams, and knows the things that her team needs to work on to become one of the elite teams.
“We have the talent, we have the manpower, it’s just a matter about being mentally tough and being aggressive.”
Even though the tough loss resonated with the players, Peterson stayed positive and reflected on what this game showed her about the team.
“I think something that’s important for us to take away from this match is that they’re the No. 1 team in the nation right now, and we were right with them the whole time,” Peterson said. “That just tells us that we can hang with them. We can do some pretty cool things this year.”
Regardless of the outcome, Danks said she was proud of her team.
“A lot of teams, especially against such a talented team like Penn State, once you get to game three and you lost two, they kind of give up hope,” Danks said. “I was really proud of our team for coming out just totally believing, swinging away, making big plays and we were just right there.”
The Buckeyes travel to East Lansing, Mich., to play against Michigan State on Saturday, and Danks said this loss did not put a damper on their confidence.
“We’ve shown that we can hang with some very talented teams, so I think our confidence is up,” she said, “and it’s just a matter of making those plays at the end of the games and we will be fine.”