Continuing into the heart of its Big Ten season, Ohio State will head to Rutgers on Friday and Penn State on Saturday.
The squad will face Rutgers, which stands at 6-11 for the season and is on a four-loss streak, having lost every Big Ten match played.
The Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions will have a rematch after Ohio State took the win in four sets in their previous match. Since then, Penn State has fallen from No. 4 to No. 9 in the AVCA Coaches Poll.
The Buckeyes will be coming off a tough loss to Indiana last week, and this will be their first opportunity to prove their strength since then.
“I thought Indiana revealed where we’re trying to fill some gaps in terms of our leadership and voice,” Ohio State head coach Geoff Carlston said. “I know it wasn’t from lack of intent or lack of want but I think it just exposed our youth quite a bit. But that’s not an excuse, it’s our job as a group to navigate those moments.”
Junior middle blocker Madison Smeathers also took the Indiana match as an opportunity to reflect on the season.
“It’s a good reminder that you can never be complacent,” Smeathers said. “No matter how high your highs are you can never have too low of lows.”
The Buckeyes have not lost to the Scarlet Knights since 1981 and has won the past seven matches in straight sets. The Nittany Lions have a 48-16 advantage in the all-time series.
Penn State leads the country with 3.18 blocks per set and Rutgers is fifth with 2.97. Penn State’s freshman middle blocker Serena Gray is No. 7 in country with 1.55 blocks per set and Rutgers’ junior middle blocker Stasa Miljevic is 13th with 1.49.
Smeathers looks to these teams and others in the Big Ten as motivation.
“You can always look around at other teams in the Big Ten and see what other people are doing, and that keeps you hungry,” Smeathers said. “Losing obviously is a big killer that keeps you going, and so is coming into practice knowing how much better you can get every day.”
The Buckeyes will face Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey at 7 p.m. on Friday before heading to University Park, Pennsylvania to face the Nittany Lions at 7 p.m. on Saturday.