Ohio State will face tough competition as they switch gears to Big Ten play. The women’s volleyball team will take on No. 6 Wisconsin on Wednesday and No. 4 Penn State on Saturday.
Both opponents boast impressive records, with Wisconsin at 7-1 and Penn State at 9-1 with its one loss to No. 2 Stanford.
The Buckeyes should have their eyes on Wisconsin freshman middle blocker Dana Rettke, who leads the country with 1.90 blocks per set.
Penn State averages 3.37 blocks per set, which is No. 1 in the nation.
The Buckeyes wrapped up their non-conference schedule at 9-3, a standing that head coach Geoff Carlston feels confident about as the team heads into the Big Ten.
Carlston said he looked at the non-conference schedule as its own mini season.
“Our numbers were really good in terms of what our targets are,” Carlston said. “We are going to have to play a little bit better to get those numbers in the Big Ten, but I think 9-3 puts us in a good position to do that.”
Freshman opposite hitter Vanja Bukilic, who finished the previous match with a career-high 18 kills, holds the personal goals of being top five in the Big Ten by the end of the season and, eventually, making the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Carlston said he is focusing on getting the team to reach a few more kills per set, an equation he said must be navigated to find the ideal number. Without it, he said, it will be tough to win.
The transition from non-conference to conference play brings changes to preparation strategies and game-time energy.
Ohio State has a long history with both teams, creating heightened rivalry throughout the matches. Penn State holds a 48-15 advantage in the all-time series, and Wisconsin leads 41-36.
The adjustment from playing weekend tournaments with three matches in 30 hours, to a more spread out schedule with no matches less than 24 hours apart, is a big one, Carlston said. The team can now spend time focusing on individual teams rather than upcoming series’ as a whole.
“It’s a different mindset in the sense of: you just have one team right in front of you, you don’t have to worry about turning around four hours later for another match,” said Carlston. “I think we are all excited for that pace to be coming our way.”
The team will head to Madison on Wednesday to face Wisconsin at 7 p.m., and will return to St. John Arena for Sunday’s home contest against Penn State at 1 p.m.