The Ohio State women’s volleyball team ended their regular season in an emotional fashion on Saturday night. After five sets of competitive play against Indiana, the Buckeyes pulled out a win for the upperclassmen on OSU’s Senior Night.
Despite the occasion, the Hoosiers didn’t let the Buckeyes off the hook during the match. The teams pushed through five grueling sets before OSU secured the win (25-14, 21-25, 25-17, 16-25, 15-11) to close out its regular season play. The Buckeyes jump to 20-12 overall and an even 10-10 in the Big Ten conference.
Indiana has given OSU trouble in the past when the when the team’s battled in Bloomington, Indiana, on Nov. 5. The Hoosiers completed a 3-1 upset over the Buckeyes that night. Saturday night’s win comes on the heels of an OSU five-set win over Purdue on Friday night.
After the match, OSU seniors were recognized with their families in front of the crowd and were given framed jerseys. The group showed their emotions about playing in St. John Arena for the last time as many tears fell and many hugs were shared. Each senior was able to say a few words and give thanks to anyone who was a part of their journey as Buckeyes.
“I’m really sad because this is going to be the last time I play at St. John. I’ve been here in this place for the last four years,” said senior libero Valeria León. “I can’t imagine not being here and not playing out here, but I’ve loved every part of it.”
Senior middle blocker Kylie Randall was supported by her family, who made the journey from Tomball, Texas, to celebrate with her on Saturday night.
“I’m really excited to see my family here and just enjoy the last ‘hoorah’ here in St. John,” she said. “It was good to be surrounded by my teammates and all of the fans.”
It was senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe who kicked off the night with two opening kills in the first set to pace OSU, followed by an ace from senior setter Abby Fesl. Sandbothe would post three additional kills, aiding the Buckeye effort. OSU limited the Hoosiers to just a .077 attacking efficiency to close out the first set.
Indiana battled back from a second-set hole to the tie the score at 16-16. OSU did not perform well under pressure and started to make unforced errors. The Hoosiers capitalized on the Buckeyes’ mistakes and took hold of the lead to finish off the second set, 25-21.
OSU played stronger in the third set coming out of the intermission. The team maintained the lead nearly the entire set after a very brief Indiana advantage. Freshman Madison Smeathers swung away for five of her 13 match kills in the third set.
The Hoosiers propelled ahead after falling behind early in the fourth set of the match, led by multiple-point runs from Indiana’s defensive specialists Meaghan Koors and Samantha Fogg. Attacking errors from nearly every OSU hitter only added to the Hoosier momentum, and the Buckeyes found themselves staring down a winner-take-all fifth set.
Play was tight between the teams in the final set until OSU’s pair of sophomores, setter Taylor Hughes and outside hitter Audra Appold, put the Buckeyes ahead with three consecutive kills, 6-4. The Buckeyes nearly eliminated all unforced errors from their side of the net, which boosted them to a fifth-set victory, 15-11.
León dug up a match-high 17 balls during competition and Sandbothe led the Buckeyes offensively with 22 kills and a .514 hitting percentage. Hughes contributed 35 assists and 3 aces.
With two wins to close out their regular season, the Buckeyes are waiting anxiously for the NCAA Tournament Selection Show on Sunday night to find out their place in postseason play. The Buckeyes set a goal for themselves earlier in the year to play in the Final Four, which will be held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
Randall said the team will be gathering at OSU coach Geoff Carlston’s house to watch the show.
“Looking forward to the tournament, I think we put ourselves in a really good position going 2-0,” she said.
León added that wherever the Buckeyes are headed, she has confidence in the experience her team has already gained during the season.
“Wherever we end up going, I think the Big Ten prepares you to play against the best,” she said. “We’re not going to be afraid of wherever we’re playing. We’re just going to go out there and give our all.”
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be aired at 9 p.m. on Sunday night on ESPNU.