Ohio State split two home matches this weekend as it fell 3-2 to No. 3 Penn State Friday, but returned to the court the next day and picked up a 3-0 victory versus Rutgers.
No. 3 Penn State
Despite losing 3-2 to Penn State, outside hitter Bia Franklin had a big night with 10 kills and nine digs, both career-highs for the sophomore. Setter Taylor Hughes also played a solid game with a match-high 50 assists, a total she had only matched just once previously this season.
Penn State quickly jumped ahead in the first set with an 8-3 lead. Even after two timeouts, the Buckeyes could not match Penn State’s energy.
The Nittany Lions delivered 18 kills with a .500 hitting percentage, leaving the Buckeyes behind and allowing Penn State to take the first set 25-13.
The Buckeyes did not let the first set affect their performance as they stormed out to an 11-8 lead in the second set.
The game grew more intense by the point as both teams fought back-and-forth for the second set with three lead changes. Outside hitter Luisa Schirmer was responsible for five kills and Hughes added 14 assists, leading the Buckeyes to win the set 25-23.
The third set was just as competitive as the second, this time with 12 ties. Penn State middle blocker Haleigh Washington helped her team with seven kills on a .364 clip. Tensions were high as both teams played a close point-by-point set, ending in a 30-28 victory for the Buckeyes.
The fourth set was quite a turnaround as the Buckeyes fell to a 13-6 deficit, forcing them to call a timeout. The Nittany Lions maintained their momentum and did not relinquish their lead. With 14 kills and 13 digs, Penn State took the set 25-9.
The Nittany Lions carried their vibrant energy into the fifth set, leaving the Buckeyes to trail behind them 8-0. Although the Buckeyes attempted to catch up, Penn State took the set and the match with a decisive 15-7 victory
Although he sees room for improvement, Ohio State head coach Geoff Carlston thought his team played well against Penn State and recognized the tough moments the Buckeyes worked through.
“In this conference and to go where we want to go, you have to be able to do it,” Carlston said. “If it’s a 2 1/2 hour match, you got to do it for 2 1/2 hours. It’s hard.”
The Buckeyes dominated Saturday night, bouncing back from their loss with a 3-0 sweep against Rutgers. Outside hitter Ashley Wenz was the star of the night with a career-high 18 kills.
Wenz said she was not anticipating setting any records this weekend, but sees this as a success for the team as a whole, not just for herself.
“I think it helps playing all the way around,” Wenz said. “We’re running the back row attack and it’s been working really well. We have a really nice rhythm with it right now, so that definitely helps.”
Ohio State played a sound first set with 11 kills and 10 digs. Wenz put away four kills in the first set, and Rutgers had just a -.050 hitting percentage. The Buckeyes won the opening set 25-15.
The second set went just as well for the Buckeyes as they were able to play strong offensively with 13 kills and posses a powerful defensive line with two blocks from middle blocker Madison Smeathers and Hughes. Ohio State claimed the set 25-12 to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Buckeyes played no differently in the third set, leading with a 9-1 opening run before the Scarlet Knights called a timeout. Although Rutgers was able to pull within just a couple points, Ohio State maintained a steady pace and won the third set 26-24, taking the match.
Wenz thought playing these two teams were completely different experiences, but was proud of her team’s progress despite the weekend split.
“I think [Rutgers was] pretty scrappy on defense and [we were] able to make the smart shots that we needed to make to be able to put the ball down,” Wenz said.
The team’s success Saturday has shown Carlston what the Buckeyes are capable of, but he is only focused on making the team the best they can be.
“We made some strides in some areas this weekend, but we just need to come back and keep getting better on Monday,” Carlston said. “We just got to stay focused. We can be really good, but we need to keep challenging ourselves to get better.”
The Buckeyes will hit the road again as they face Illinois at 8 p.m. Friday and Northwestern at 8 p.m. Saturday.