Ohio State women’s volleyball has not won back-to-back matches in more than a month, and it faces another pair of tough Big Ten matchups this week.
After a Big Ten loss against Illinois, Ohio State (11-11, 4-6 Big Ten) will travel to No. 6 Minnesota (15-3, 9-1) Wednesday and return home to face Maryland (12-10, 4-6) for the second time this season.
“Our record isn’t necessarily showing it, but I feel like we are making a lot of improvements and learning a lot of lessons this season,” freshman defensive specialist Kylie Murr said. “We know personally that we’re getting better, so we just want to continue to focus on the things we’re struggling in and practicing those.”
On the defensive side, the Buckeyes are working hard to increase their coverage to protect their hitters and defend against intimidating Big Ten offenses, sophomore defensive specialist Camryn Moeller said.
“As a libero, it’s our job to cover the hitters. We’re working on that and playing more scrappy defense and trying to keep our opponent hitting percentage under .200,” Moeller said.
However, the offense has made great improvements from the beginning of the season, Murr said. Specifically, the outside hitters have risen to the challenge, and she wants to increase coverage so they feel more confident taking aggressive swings during the match.
Ohio State is nestled at No. 14 in the Big Ten, just behind Northwestern, with a rate of 13.64 kills per set. The Buckeyes will take on a quick offense against Minnesota, which is leading the Big Ten with 14.26 kills per set.
“They’re a top 10 team. They’re all going to bring their A game, so we just know that we’ve got to be gritty, and we’ve got to play with a lot of heart to be able to win this game,” Murr said.
Minnesota redshirt junior middle hitter Regan Pittman leads the Big Ten in blocks and has collected 160 kills this season. The Buckeyes will also face the threat of junior opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy, who has 223 kills this season.
After facing a strong Gopher offense, the Buckeyes will return home to face Maryland, which they defeated Sept. 25 three sets to one.
“It’ll pretty much be the same except we’ll be on our home court, and we’ll be more comfortable here in Columbus,” Moeller said. “They’re going to have our number, and we’re going to have to scout them too a little more because we’re both improved but definitely being at home will play to our advantage.”
Since the teams last faced off, Maryland has clinched wins over Michigan State, Rutgers, Indiana and Northwestern. In addition, Maryland redshirt sophomore middle hitter Katie Meyers is No. 2 in the Big Ten with 127 blocks.
“Their middles kind of tore us up a little bit. They were really good,” Murr said. “So just focusing in on the key points that beat us last time and focus on the areas we did stop will be really important.”
Facing two very different opponents this week, the Buckeyes are taking a day-by-day approach in practice and intend on taking these matches one game at a time starting on Wednesday night.
“Right now we’re focusing on Minnesota and their fast offense that they run and all of their first side out patterns,” Moeller said. “But once we finish playing Minnesota, we’re going to focus on Maryland and focus on their scrappy defense and their big block. But we’re just going to take it day by day and game by game.”
Ohio State and Minnesota begin at 8 p.m. Wednesday and the Maryland matchup starts at 7 p.m. Saturday.