For the first time this season, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team will face No. 4 Illinois on Friday, and, for the second time this week, they will face Northwestern on Sunday.
To kick off the weekend, Ohio State (12-12, 3-9 Big Ten) will face Illinois (20-3, 9-3 Big Ten). Two of its players won Big Ten volleyball awards last week.
Sophomore libero Morgan O’Brien won Defensive Player of the Week. She leads the team in digs with 370, and 4.40 digs per set. Senior setter Jordyn Poulter won Co-Setter of the Week and leads Illinois with 989 sets and 11.77 assists per set.
“Their setter and middle are both four-year starter seniors and don’t get too rattled about anything,” Carlston said. “They’re a solid stable team. They’re playing with some confidence and they’ve done pretty well on the road. They’ve had the same lineup all year so there’s a good chemistry.”
After a season primarily played on the road, junior defensive specialist Camry Halm said Ohio State is eager to be back home for five of its eight remaining matches, talking about the atmosphere at Wisconsin, which has the No. 2 average attendance record with 7,052 fans per contest.
“We vibe off the crowd a lot,” junior defensive specialist Camry Halm said. “We take their energy and absorb it. When we were at Wisconsin their energy was obviously geared toward them, but we still feed off the crowd. But we love playing at home in front of our fans.”
The Buckeyes fell to the Wildcats (13-11, 3-9 Big Ten) in straight sets last Sunday. With Northwestern being their most recent opponent, the Buckeyes have the team fresh in their minds.
Head coach Geoff Carlston said there are advantages to playing a team twice in such a short period.
“You have an idea of what you can do better and what they’re going to bring, I kind of like it in some circumstances,” Carlston said. “We’ll need a little less time in preparation because it was so recent.”
Since their first matchup in 1975, The Buckeyes have a 56-20 advantage in the all-time series with the Wildcats. Prior to their most recent loss in Northwestern territory, Ohio State had won the past six meetings.
Ohio State is on a four-loss streak, and Carlston said this has been a particularly tough year of his 11-year tenure as head coach.
“It’s hard. It’s probably the most challenging season I’ve had since I’ve been at Ohio State,” Carlston said. “We haven’t had the same lineup all year and we’re young. That’s not the combination you want, but it is what it is. All things considered, we’re in a good spot mentally; but we all want to win more, and we all want to be healthier as a group.”
Ohio State hosts Illinois at St. John Arena at 7 p.m. on Friday and Northwestern at noon on Sunday.