The Ohio State women’s volleyball team is trying to rebound following a 3-1 upset at the hands of the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday and a loss to Wisconsin at home prior to that.
The Buckeyes will have two opportunities for redemption when they host back-to-back home matches this weekend at St. John Arena. OSU clashes with Rutgers on Friday and No. 10 Penn State on Saturday.
The loss to the Hoosiers put OSU outside of the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association poll for the first time this season. Upcoming opponent Rutgers holds a 4-23 record and has yet to win a Big Ten match this season, while the Penn State Nittany Lions have maintained their powerhouse presence in the conference and stand at 18-7 overall. Penn State also swept the Buckeyes 3-0 the last time the two teams met on Oct. 19 in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe said the team’s loss to Indiana was just the nature of the beast that is the Big Ten conference.
“They played really good defense against us, and I don’t think we were able to respond,” she said. “It’s just part of being in the Big Ten. You can’t underestimate anyone, and everyone has something to offer.”
OSU coach Geoff Carlston said the Buckeyes have been in a rut for the past couple of matches. Prior to Indiana, OSU took a tough loss to Wisconsin at St. John Arena by a margin of just 11 total points.
“The last couple matches, we’ve struggled finding rhythm. We make two or three good plays and then we’ll miss a serve at a crucial time or we just won’t make a play,” Carlston said. “We need to be able to string those runs together.”
Putting the past aside, the Buckeyes – from the newcomers to the veterans – are choosing to stay optimistic heading into weekend play.
“I really believe we can do it. We’re ready,” said freshman outside hitter Bia Franklin. “We’re going to practice hard this week, and it would be really nice to (get) that revenge (on Penn State).”
Sandbothe is looked at as one of OSU’s senior leaders, and the team turns to her in times of trouble. Her strategy relies on keeping everyone calm and collected in the huddle.
“It’s just taking a deep breath and refocusing, letting everyone know that we’re all on the same page,” she said. “The middle is a really great time for us to reset.”
Sandbothe isn’t just leading by her words. Her play is speaking volumes about her and the team that surrounds her.
During the Buckeyes’ last match with Wisconsin, she locked down the OSU record for most career blocks in history with 518 rejections. Sandbothe said the record has only added fuel to her competitive fire.
“Now I want to slaughter it. Now I’m going to make sure that it’s not going to be broken for a lot longer,” she said. “It (breaking a record) gives you a greater appreciation for what this program means and the fact that there are people who put the jersey on before you and there’s going to be people who put it on after you.”
Sandbothe is confident that OSU can put on a strong performance this weekend. She said back-to-back Friday and Saturday matches are good for the team’s pace. There is also the advantage of playing on home court.
Carlston is looking a little farther than the weekend with the NCAA tournament coming up in December. All members of the Buckeyes’ teams have mentioned throughout the season their anticipation to be in the Final Four, which will be played in Columbus at Nationwide Arena.
Carlston feels that 12 out of the 15 teams in the Big Ten have the ability to make it into the NCAA tournament, and this is the time for his team to make a statement that OSU should be one of them.
“For us, taking care of our business this weekend at home is important,” he said.
The Buckeyes will first take on the Scarlet Knights on Friday at 7 p.m. followed by the Nittany Lions at 7 p.m. on Saturday, both at St. John Arena.