Ohio State will attempt to rebound from its losing record in Pittsburgh and tighten its game play this weekend on the road as Big Ten matchups loom ahead.
Ohio State (3-3) will face Tulane (6-2), Western Kentucky (6-1) and Bowling Green (5-2) in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and hopes to have a better showing than last weekend’s 1-2 performance, senior middle blocker Elle Sandbothe said.
“After this weekend, it wasn’t the exact, ideal turnout that we wanted, but we were able to expose some things that we really need to focus on to make our team better,” Sandbothe said. “Now, we’re managing our errors to be more low-error.”
Head coach Geoff Carlston said Ohio State is focusing on increasing consistency of play and improving players’ overall mental game, which will help reduce mistakes.
“The preseason is important in our conference because, unlike a lot of other conferences, the Big Ten is an absolute bloodbath,” Carlston said. “You need to be able to bring some confidence out of your nonconference schedule.”
The matches this weekend are important improvement markers as the Buckeyes look ahead to conference play.
“You just have to expect that everyone’s going to play their best match against you and you’ve got to be ready for it,” Carlston said. “And that’s the way you have to prepare for the Big Ten.”
Even with Big Ten matches in their sights, the Buckeyes maintain a short-term perspective and are optimistic about their performance in Bowling Green.
“[We] definitely [want] to come out 3-0. I feel like that’s the expectation you’ve got to have going into a tournament,” Sandbothe said. “Being prepared to fight, and every team’s good that we’ll play against, so just being prepared to play our best match and hope for the best.”
This weekend’s games are especially challenging because of the high-caliber teams in the Buckeyes’ nonconference schedule.
All Buckeye opponents for the weekend had a winning record in their 2018 seasons, which provides a unique challenge for the Buckeyes. Western Kentucky, in particular, presents a substantial obstacle to Ohio State’s goal of coming out of this weekend with three wins.
“Western Kentucky is a top-25 team almost every year,” Carlston said. “There’s teams we’ll play where we’ll know a decent amount about because of their style. They’re pretty difficult to play because of their style.”
In addition, all three teams are composed mostly of veteran players: Tulane’s 18-person roster has 14 returning, Western Kentucky’s 14-person roster has nine returning and Bowling Green’s 18-person roster has 14 returning.
With a quick turnaround in preparation, Ohio State has dedicated two practice days to working on skills needed to play these specific opponents. Yet Carlston stressed that keeping the focus internal and staying present in each match is more pressing than what their opponent could potentially bring to the table.
“It’s 80 percent focus on us and 20 percent on the game plan,” Carlston said. “If we take care of our side of the ball we’re going to win.”