So far this year, OSU has played 19 different teams, traveled to seven states, moved up and down the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association poll and seen the floor of St. John Arena only three times.
OSU will be on the road yet again on Wednesday when they will battle the last remaining undefeated conference team, the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State sits at 16-3 overall this season.
The 19th-ranked Buckeyes (13-7) will then come back to Columbus to take on No. 11 Michigan State (16-4) on Saturday. Last time around, the Spartans swept OSU in East Lansing, Michigan, 3-0 (Oct. 7).
OSU is nearing the homestretch of its season and facing, arguably, its toughest string of games yet. OSU coach Geoff Carlston said his team is anything but sluggish.
“This team is hungry,” he said. “As long as we keep working hard and stay together…that’s going to pay some dividends at the end.”
The Buckeyes will have to be hungry for a win when they travel to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions. Penn State boasts the second-highest hitting percentage in the nation. The team is also on a 14-match win streak – their last loss came on Sept. 4 against Stanford.
Carlston admitted the dominance of Penn State’s 6-foot-3 junior middle blocker Haleigh Washington, but also said he sees a lot of opportunities for OSU to capitalize on.
“If we can do what we’re planning on doing, which is staying aggressive and play with poise,” he said. “I like a lot of the matchups.”
The Buckeyes will have three days after the Penn State match to make adjustments before their second go-round with Michigan State. Members of OSU’s team say that the quick turnaround from the first time they faced the Spartans is actually to their advantage.
“It’s a little bit fresher in our minds,” senior setter Abby Fesl said. “We’ll analyze what happened last time so that we can be a little bit more prepared and more able to execute.”
Fesl is new to the OSU sisterhood this season after transferring from the University of North Florida. She also said her team makes weekly goals in order to stay motivated for its grinding schedule ahead.
“We break things down kind of weekend by weekend, game by game,” she said. “We set goals for ourselves and try to accomplish those, so when we do, it’s a really great feeling.”
Fesl’s teammate, junior defensive specialist Kalisha Goree, added that at this midpoint in the season, she’s seen her team’s play change but it still hold true to its spirit.
“We’re the same team in a lot of senses, like the personalities are still the same,” Goree said. “We’re still having fun together, but we are a different team because we’ve grown in a lot of different ways,” she said.
Carlston also said that playing a constantly tough schedule is easier because of OSU’s investment into their team and themselves.
“Our freshmen have kind of grown up before our eyes, but also our leadership has matured and really ‘bought in’ to the journey. It sounds cliché, but you need to,” he said.
The Buckeyes’ journey will continue on Wednesday at 8 p.m. when they face Penn State. OSU will then take on Michigan State at St. John Arena at 6 p.m. on Saturday for the breast cancer awareness match.