The OSU women’s volleyball team celebrates after a win against Michigan State on Oct. 22. The Buckeyes won the match 3-0. Credit: Lantern File Photo

Heading home for the first time this season, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team hopes to bounce back from its 3-1 loss Saturday to No. 10 BYU in this weekend’s 13th annual Sports Imports D.C. Koehl Classic. It is set to play Missouri State Friday before taking on Oakland and Lipscomb in a doubleheader Saturday.

Ohio State (2-1) opened the season with wins over the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (3-0) and Saint Louis (3-1) before the loss to Cougars. Outside hitter Ashley Wenz believes the Buckeyes played well together in their first weekend, but they need to focus more on adapting to their opponents as the games go on.

“I think we really executed the game plan at first and they just adjusted,” Wenz said. “We’re working on that now to prepare us for next week and upcoming weeks, just really being able to be flexible and adjust to situations.”

Ohio State coach Geoff Carlston said the Buckeyes’ key to finding victory this weekend will be to work on solidifying their defense to match up with the challenging opponents they have in front of them.

“It’s going to be three really great defensive teams — these three teams that are known to take pride in keeping the point going — so we’re going to have to be patient and play a really strong defensive,” Carlston said. “It’s really going to be concentration and staying in the moment.”

Drawing inspiration from the team’s loss to BYU, middle blocker Madison Smeathers said the team will learn from the match against a top-10 opponent and build on it moving forward in their season.
“It was eye-opening,” Smeathers said. “It kind of sets a fire underneath you to get better during practice and we can always look back on it.”

Though Missouri State is neither a conference nor in-state rival, it is a team with recent history against Ohio State.

The two teams faced off against each other twice last season, once early in the year and then in the first round of the NCAA tournament, in which the Buckeyes came away with a 3-0 victory over the Bears. Remembering the pair of contests against Missouri State last season, both Smeathers and Wenz said they are more excited to play them this weekend than any of the other teams.

“We played them [two] times last year, so it’ll be a good little rivalry match even though it’s not in the Big Ten,” Smeathers said. “It’ll be fun to get back inside St. John with our own home fans.”

The Buckeyes are excited to be hosting the tournament and getting the opportunity to hear their fans cheer them on as they tackle the weekend match-ups.

“Knowing that you’re going to have more people on your side and more people cheering behind you gets you a little more hyped up for it,” Smeathers said.

To reach the goals set by the team for the weekend, Carlston believes the key will be to make sure the team focuses on maintaining consistency and playing at the level he believes they can reach.

“Our focus right now is going to be on ourselves for the next couple of days,” Carlston said.

Wenz added, “We just need to make sure that we handle what we need to handle.”

The Buckeyes’ game against Missouri State start at 6 p.m. Friday, with Saturday’s contests against Oakland and Lipscomb beginning at noon and 8 p.m., respectively. All games will be played at St. John Arena.