The Ohio State women’s volleyball team is looking to build off its Sweet 16 appearance last year as it begins its 2015 campaign this weekend at the Rumble in the Rockies tournament in Laramie, Wyoming.
Ranked No. 14 in the preseason coaches poll, the Buckeyes are scheduled to kick off their season at 8:30 p.m. Friday against Wyoming, which is hosting the tournament. They’re set to play two more games on Saturday, squaring off against Butler at 11:30 a.m. and South Dakota at 7 p.m.
The Buckeyes posted a record of 23-12 last season, which qualified them for the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in seven years. The team’s deep run ended in the Sweet 16 when it fell in five sets to Wisconsin.
Members of the team are proud of their success in the 2014 season, but they’re looking to get through a Big Ten conference that boasts six ranked teams heading into the season and make an even deeper run this year, coach Geoff Carlston said.
“This group wants to get in the Final Four,” Carlston said. “We have the confidence that if you can get through the conference and survive and take the battle scars you get, and bring them into the tournament, then it comes down to how you’re playing and being healthy.”
Some key contributors from last year have graduated in outside hitter Erin Sekinger, setter Taylor Sherwin and defensive specialist Alyssa Winner, who Carlston described as one of the team’s strongest leaders. Despite the loss of three important players, Carlston said he feels that the new additions will step in and play well.
“We lost some pretty key components, but we have a lot of experience back and new faces that I think are going to really add to us,” he said. “It’s a neat group. They get along really well and are working hard.”
Additions to this year’s team include a pair of freshmen — outside hitter Audra Appold and setter Taylor Hughes — along with redshirt senior setter Emily Ruetter, a Texas Tech transfer.
“It’s really exciting to know that you’re going to something that’s so great and that everyone knows about,” Appold said. “And you get to be a part of it, which is really cool.”
Hughes said the team’s success over the years made her decision to come to OSU an easy one.
New faces at setter
After the departure of Sherwin, who finished second in assists in the Big Ten last season, OSU is turning to Hughes and Ruetter to fill the void at setter.
“It’s been really competitive,” Ruetter said. “Taylor and I are both so close that whoever ends up winning the spot, it’s not going to change our relationship. It’s just going to make the team better and the way we’re competing every day, day in and day out.”
Carlston said the intrasquad battle should have a positive result for the team no matter who gets the spot.
“They’re both very different but they’re both very good, so it’s nice to have,” he said.
Although his team has battled injuries and illness throughout the summer, Carlston said OSU will head into its opening weekend at full strength.
“You’ve just got to stay healthy,” Carlston said. “In our league, the margin for error is so low. So I think we’re just preaching staying in it and not getting ahead of ourselves, as a staff as well, because we know what lies ahead.”
Following its season-opening tournament, OSU is set to host Northern Illinois and Florida State in the 10th annual Sports Imports D.C. Koehl Classic at St. John Arena on Sept. 5 and 6. The matches are set for noon and 7 p.m., respectively.