Fueled by a sold-out crowd, Ohio State came out aggressive against Michigan, but were unable to slide the match into the win column.
In its second match against Michigan in seven days (11-3, 4-0 Big Ten), Ohio State (8-8, 1-3) couldn’t execute in the final points in each of the three losing sets (20-25, 21-25, 19-25).
“I think we’re making good changes,” sophomore outside hitter Mia Gunze said. “We really picked it up, I just think we need to be more consistent with those changes at the end.”
The Buckeyes stood point-for-point with the Wolverines, but were slightly edged out in every statistical category.
“We were connecting way better and playing better in general,” Grunze said. “It was so much better and I’m proud of my team we just have to keep grinding.”
The Buckeye offense put up 40 kills, with senior middle hitter Elle Sandbothe leading the way with 12 kills while outside hitters Grunze and freshman Adria Powell had eight apiece. In addition, the energy of the Sunday crowd and the home-court advantage provided ammunition for the performance.
“It’s always such a cool experience because you get to see the love and support that you know you have and it’s so awesome and infectious to feel their vibe pouring onto us on the court,” Sandbothe said. “It’s the best thing, we have the best fans.”
However, the Michigan offense was too much for the Buckeyes.
The Wolverines collected 44 kills, driven mostly by sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones who added 19 to the team’s total.
Moving forward, the Buckeyes want to increase the pressure they put on teams with their serve and attacks so strong offensive powers like Jones don’t impact the game as much, Sandbothe said.
“Something that we stress a lot is having a really aggressive serve so we can get them out of system,” Sandbothe said. “We also need to make our shots tougher to defend to get them out of their game and out of their rhythm.”
Despite Jones and the Wolverines’ strong performance, Ohio State provided a tight match throughout each set.
However, it will come down to eliminating small errors for the Buckeyes to turn tight losses into wins.
“We definitely came out strong and aggressive and I’m so proud of how we performed but it’s going to come down to the little plays,” Sandbothe said. “Doing good things more consistently and not letting the silly things at the end happen.”
The Buckeyes continue their Big Ten schedule, playing Rutgers at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Definitely we have to stick to what we know and stay consistent,” Grunze said. “I’m just looking forward to seeing what we can do because I know we have more and every game gets better.”