The Ohio State women’s volleyball team is looking to capture its second tournament win in a row this weekend as it heads to Brooklyn, New York, for the Blackbird Invitational.
OSU (5-1) is set to take on host Long Island University Brooklyn (0-4) on Friday at 7 p.m. to kick off the tournament. The No. 15 Buckeyes are then scheduled to take on two currently undefeated teams on Saturday, playing Syracuse (5-0) at 10 a.m. and No. 13 Arizona (6-0) at 5 p.m.
The Buckeyes are riding a five-match winning streak and are coming off a tournament win on their home floor at St. John Arena, defeating then-No. 14 Florida State twice and Northern Illinois once.
Coach Geoff Carlston was happy with the way his team stayed steady and worked together, and said he hopes it carries over to this weekend.
“I thought we really played well as a unit this weekend,” he said. “Everyone impacted our team and our wins. In that sense, I think we feel really good about the culture we’ve created.”
Carlston said his team has confidence after sweeping the Sports Imports D.C. Koehl Classic tournament, but his players are trying to remain grounded as they prepare for conference play.
“We really try to stay so in the moment because you’re going to have big wins and big losses in the Big Ten,” he said. “Then the next day, you have to be playing another top 25 team.”
Sophomore outside hitter Luisa Schirmer echoed the sentiments of her coach when she described the team as confident but focused as it heads into another important set of games.
“Two undefeated teams are coming into the tournament, so we’re going to have to play our best again,” Schirmer said. “We can’t let our confidence overcloud how hard we’re going to have to work.”
Keys to victory
Heading into the Blackbird Invitational, senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell said the key will be the intensity of the back-row defenders.
“I thought our back-row defenders did a great job of scrapping,” she said. “I mean, they picked up everything that you could possibly throw at them.”
In the D.C. Koehl Classic, junior libero Valeria León had 58 digs en route to a second straight all-tournament performance, while sophomore defensive specialist Kalisha Goree added 24.
Mitchell also said the presence of the team’s middle blockers was huge for the OSU offense last weekend and she hoped they continue their high level of play.
“Having the middles as a constant presence makes the other teams worry about them a little bit more than they usually do, and that opens up our offense,” she said.
Sandbothe earns more honors
One of the middle blockers to whom Mitchell was referring is junior Taylor Sandbothe, who was named a Big Ten co-player of the week alongside sophomore middle blocker Haleigh Washington of Penn State.
“She played at another level this weekend and that’s what I talked to her about,” Carlston said. “And it wasn’t just the game, it was her persona, her personality, how she played the game.”
Sandbothe was also named the D.C. Koehl Classic tournament MVP after picking up 42 kills on a .521 attack percentage, along with 16 blocks and three aces.
OSU will wrap up its nonconference schedule by playing in the Golden Grizzlies Invitational in Rochester, Michigan, on Sept. 18 and 19.