The No. 13 Ohio State women’s volleyball team is set to open Big Ten play this weekend against closely-ranked opponents.
The undefeated Buckeyes (12-0) are scheduled to play No. 10 Michigan (10-1) at 8 p.m. Friday and No. 15 Michigan State (11-1) Sunday at 2 p.m..
The Buckeyes’ performances in those first 12 matches pleased coach Geoff Carlston, but he said he’s looking for more as the squad heads into the Big Ten season.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “We knew coming into the season that we’re going to have to be pretty patient because there’s going to be a pretty big learning curve.”
OSU has received major contributions from three freshmen — right side hitter Taylor Sandbothe, outside hitter Kylie Randall and defensive specialist Valeria León.
Carlston said he likes what the younger players have done, but said the veterans have stepped up as well.
“We have talented freshmen, but we have great leadership above them,” Carlston said.
Carlston added that some younger players like sophomore middle blocker Andrea Kacsits will have to play an even bigger role since junior middle blocker Anna Faul tore her ACL over the weekend.
The team has been successful early in the season because of how it has come together, even more so than in previous years, junior outside hitter Erin Sekinger said.
“The chemistry on the floor is like no other,” Sekinger said. “Everybody just clicks with one another.”
Carlston said this year’s group has had no problem focusing on each match, even though the roster is young.
“It sounds cliché, but we really have put a huge emphasis on one opponent at a time, one match at a time,” he said.
Finishing the non-conference schedule unscathed is an accomplishment for any team, senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary said. However, the weekend ahead of the Buckeyes marks the beginning of “the next chapter.”
“(In) the Big Ten, obviously every single game we play is a challenge, so we’re just preparing this week and working hard,” Leary said.
As far as the matchup against Michigan is concerned, Sekinger said some players are going to be extra motivated once the whistle blows.
“I’m an Ohio kid, so I go more crazy for Michigan just because it’s a big rivalry,” Sekinger said.
The Wolverines have just one loss on the season, coming against then-No. 16 ranked Florida State, who the Buckeyes played and beat at the Seminole Invitational.
Freshman setter Maggie Heim, who has been limited this season by a hamstring injury, said her team will give Michigan a fight as long as the players keep up their effort.
“If we come out with the energy we did against Florida State and just play really solid, I think we’ll have a really good shot,” Heim said. “We’ll just have to come out with more energy than (Michigan).”
Following this weekend, the Buckeyes are scheduled to travel to Indiana for matchups against Purdue Oct. 4 in West Lafayette and Indiana in Bloomington Oct. 5.