Ohio State then-sophomore middle blocker Lauren Witte attempts for a hit after an assist by senior setter Olivia Dailey against Northwestern on Nov. 4 at St. John Arena. Ohio State lost to Northwestern in four sets. Credit: Colin Gay | Former Sports Editor

Ohio State women’s volleyball opens its season with games against Lehigh, Texas Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University as the Buckeyes host the Sports Import Classic on Friday and Saturday.

Ohio State senior defensive specialist Camry Halm said the team, which held a 2018 record of 12-20, spent the offseason honing its fundamentals and working to keep the play simple.

“We want to run simple plays, keep things clean and stay disciplined,” Halm said. “These are the few things we’re going to focus on just because it is our first match.”

However, there are uncertainties that come with preseason play. Teams across the country haven’t seen one another play since the previous year, and with that comes changes in both the roster and coaching styles that shake up what a team will bring to the 2019 season.

Lehigh, who went 20-8 in 2018, poses the biggest threat to the Buckeyes. Returning outside hitters Hannah Wright and Sabrina Lancaster combined for a total of 597 kills this past year.

Texas Tech brings its own threat with 1,433 kills and 40 blocks as a team during the 2018 season.

Junior middle blocker Lauren Witte said the Buckeyes are using the uncertainty of the preseason to their advantage with a switch in focus and mindset.

“Everyone’s coming into this weekend with a blank slate, starting fresh,” Witte said. “It’s just seeing who prepared themselves the best during the preseason.”

With six new faces appearing on the court for the Buckeyes this season, Witte said she and Halm look to provide strong leadership to the new players.

“I want to be a leader by example,” Witte said. “It’s a crazy roller coaster, and I think the experience we’ve had the last couple of years is going to help the freshmen get to where they need to be.”

The influx of new talent left Ohio State with a heightened need to develop chemistry off the court. Witte said that effort was enriched with a preseason international team trip to several countries in South America, including Brazil and Peru.

After the trip, Witte said the team found a stronger sense of camaraderie and is more prepared to take on the season.

“We got to be around each other through crazy ups and downs things that other teams don’t have the opportunity to experience,” Witte said. “I think that that’s bonded us in a way that sets us apart from the other teams we’ll be playing.”

Halm said the team feels prepared to open its season and is excited about starting at home. 

“We’re fired up and ready to defend our home,” Halm said. “We want to be able to show everyone what Ohio State is all about.”

The Sports Import Classic will host VCU, Texas Tech and Lehigh starting at 9:30 a.m. on Friday until the final game at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Covelli Center. The Buckeyes take on Lehigh at noon and Texas Tech at 8 p.m. on Friday.