Ohio State Assistant Coach Ben Spurlock provides instruction to Mia Grunze (3), Mac Podraza (10) and Vanja Bukilic (13) before they take on Ohio University on Saturday, March 30, 2018 at St. John Arena in Columbus. The Buckeyes won the game 3-0. Credit: Jerrod Mogan | Oller Reporter

Ohio State opened its season with a split outcome against Lehigh and Texas Tech on Aug. 30, the first day of the Sports Import Classic.

Game One

After slow starts in all three sets, Ohio State (1-1) managed to find their rhythm and clean up its gameplay to clinch a win against Lehigh (0-2) in three straight sets (25-16, 25-20, 25-14).

Ohio State outside hitters sophomore Mia Grunze and freshman Jenaisya Moore collected 23 out of the 36 total kills in an offense led by freshman setter Mac Podraza, who led the team with 24 assists. 

In her first game playing for the Buckeyes, Podraza took on a central role at setter and led her team to a win. Running an offense and controlling the tempo of the game places a challenge on a relatively new face but Podrazo said the support she received prepared her to take on the task.

“I’ve definitely had a lot of help from [junior setter Becca Mauer] because she was here last year and ran the show last year,” Podraza said. “All the feedback I’ve gotten from her and all the stuff [head coach Geoff Carlston] has helped me out with has helped so much.” 

The Ohio State offense was coupled with a solid defense that reflects the diversity of the team. Freshman defensive specialist Kylie Murr provided 12 digs for the team and senior defensive specialist Camry Halm added eight to the team’s total. 

However, Carlston said there is still room for improvement going into future games.

“We were giving away a lot of points so we just needed to play a little bit more balanced,” he said.

Yet, the team pressed on reaching definitive wins in the first and third sets and squeaking out a win in the second; outpacing the Hawks in every major defensive and offensive statistical category.

Carlston said he is happy with this outcome against a good Lehigh team, and that the Buckeyes believe they successfully worked through their first-game jitters.

“Every first match there is some nervous rust here and I thought we did a really nice job adapting,” Carlston said.

Game Two

In an electric Covelli Center, the Buckeyes finished out the first day of the Sports Import Classic with a back-and-forth, five-set loss to Texas Tech.

“It was definitely crazy,” Grunze said. “We’ve been playing in the arena for a while now and looking forward to what it’s going to be like in here so to finally get a taste of that was super exciting.”

Ohio State used that energy to clinch a first set victory against Texas Tech. With 30 total kills in the match, Grunze was vital for Buckeye victories in the first and fourth sets.

“I think when we’re all in it together it helps,” Grunze said. “[I’m] committed on every single hit… Every little thing goes into it for sure.”

Despite nearly coming back, Ohio State dropped the second set 22-25 in spite of outpacing Texas Tech 11-6 in kills.

“I think they came out and made some adjustments and we came out a little flat,” Carlston said. “The first set was pretty intense… and we just didn’t bring that same focus and energy in the second set.”

Texas Tech continued to push that winning momentum forward as they took the third set 20-25. Totaling 70 kills and 72 digs, the Red Raiders were led to their second, third and fifth set victories by a key performance from Emily Hill totaling 29 game kills. 

After battling back to secure a 25-23 fourth set win, the Buckeyes failed to follow through and dropped the fifth and final set 15-12. 

Following this loss, the team will be focusing on playing as a unit and improving communication, especially among the defense.

“Tomorrow’s a new day,” Carlston said. “We went back and said, ‘Hey this is why we talked about connecting’… and being disciplined with it every single day in practice because that’s why we lost that match, the little things.”