The seniors on the Ohio State women’s volleyball team team (15-15, 8-11 Big Ten) have had nothing short of a long season, and their roles as leaders have never been greater.
The Buckeyes have dealt with multiple injuries multiple injuries en route to a disappointing record. Through the good and the bad, the seniors have had to take active roles as leaders of the team.
Outside hitter Ashley Wenz felt the weight on her shoulders Nov. 8 after the Buckeyes swept Rutgers 3-0, and their star junior setter Taylor Hughes went down with an injury.
“I looked around and there’s four freshmen and a sophomore and I’m like, ‘I’m the person that they look up to,’” Wenz said. “They made me really appreciate my role on the team.”
Outside hitter Luisa Schirmer said she recognized the importance of the role she and her fellow seniors demonstrate this season, and how much they influence the younger players.
With half of the roster consisting of freshmen and sophomores, Schirmer emphasized the importance of making the younger players feel comfortable on the team.
“Leading them, I think, is the biggest thing we’ve wanted to do as a class of seniors, to leave a good legacy for our program,” Schirmer said.
The Buckeyes have limped to the finish line this season, failing to put up the success they hoped to find when the season began. Despite the struggles, Wenz said she has seen improvement in the resolve of the team’s youth.
“I think when the going gets tough, you also have to get more tough. It’s been amazing the things that our team has gone through, and the things that we’ve still been able to do with that,” Wenz said. “We need to finish out strong these last few games for sure, but looking back [at] what we’ve been through … it’s really remarkable to me, just our fight and our drive right now.”
Ohio State head coach Geoff Carlston said he is proud of the seniors for stepping up to the challenge of dealing with a losing season, paving the way for the upcoming seniors and remaining underclassmen.
“This has been the most challenging season of my coaching career, and I give them a lot of credit for the leaders that they’ve become this year,” he said. “They’re the leaders of this team, they’re going to be missed a lot. I’m glad to have been part of watching them develop and grow as leaders this year.”
The seniors will play their final game Friday at home against Illinois. It’s their final moment to pass the torch to the returning players.
After the season is finished, each of the women plan to move forward in separate directions.
Schirmer is planning to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering and hopes to play professional volleyball overseas.
Senior defensive specialist Kalisha Goree will earn her degree in sport management and plans to enter the workforce once the season is over.
Wenz will receive a degree in marketing. She is currently undecided between playing professional volleyball or going to graduate school.
The Buckeyes will more than likely not play in the NCAA tournament for the first time in four seasons, which is adversity that Ohio State’s new group of leaders will have to work through.