After being on the road for three games, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team (9-6, 2-2 Big Ten) is returning home to St. John Arena for a big weekend against No. 3 Penn State (13-1, 3-1 Big Ten) Friday and Rutgers (5-11, 0-4 Big Ten) Saturday.
Despite the losses to No. 22 Michigan and No. 14 Michigan State last weekend, freshman middle blocker Lauren Witte said the team isn’t far off from winning those pivotal conference battles
“We definitely showed how hard we can play for certain moments. It’s just prolonging those moments and making them last an entire match,” Witte said. “It did show that we have the potential. We just need to find out how to bring it out every game.”
Ohio State has struggled mightily against the Nittany Lions, with the Buckeyes having lost 47 of 62 matchups since 1981.
Last season, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions played a nail-biting, five-set match in which the Buckeyes took the victory and broke their 19-match losing streak against Penn State and secured their first win over the Nittany Lions at St. John since 2006.
The Buckeyes will be facing Rutgers Saturday night, where they will try to maintain their recent run of success against the Scarlet Knights. They have won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams. Ohio State has won its last five matches against the Scarlet Knights in straight sets, and Rutgers has only defeated the Buckeyes once since 1981.
While hosting the two Big Ten opponents, the Buckeyes will be donning their pink jerseys Friday as part of the Dig Pink event. They will also have the opportunity to play a match in front of former teammates and players when Ohio State has its annual alumni game Saturday.
“We always love wearing our pink jerseys and wearing throwback jerseys for the alumni game,” junior setter Taylor Hughes said. “I’m really excited about that and playing in front of the girls who used to wear those jerseys and making them proud.”
Last weekend, Hughes said the team had a good learning experience, but that they always try to focus on the next team, regardless of further challenges that might be lingering down the road.
“We don’t want to over- or under-credit the team we play first in the weekend,” Hughes said. “[We are] giving specific goals for each of us every practice and then after practice reflecting on them and just game planning.”
The team’s game against Michigan was an important one for Hughes as she took the eighth spot in the program’s all-time assists leaders with 43 assists in the game, leading her to a current total of 2,765.
Although Hughes had a good weekend, she said she believes there is always room for improvement and that the team needs to be more attentive to what is happening on the other side of the net.
“[We need to be] really disciplined on our blocking and just reading the other side instead of making false steps,” she said. “Just being disciplined, waiting and blocking.”
Witte also believes the Buckeyes need to learn to rely more on one another as a team, but also making the right moves in order to get the job done.
“We’re running lots of game plans with blocking their hitters, singling their double quicks and getting ready for their fast offense,” Witte said. “[We’re] working with the defense behind our block and how we can make that work as a whole.”