Just over the halfway point of the season, the Buckeyes are looking to minimize mistakes and maximize scoring efficiency as they face another week of tough Big Ten matchups.
The Buckeyes (9-9, 2-4 Big Ten) take on Iowa (7-10, 1-5) at home Wednesday and No. 23 Purdue (11-4, 3-3) at home Saturday, and need to increase their offensive consistency if they want to come out with two wins this week, junior setter Becca Mauer said.
With that comes minimizing errors which is still a problem the Buckeye offense faces at this point in the season, head coach Geoff Carlston said.
“We still make too many [errors] to win at this level,” Carlston said. “Really understanding situationally when and where to put the ball and when it’s a bad situation, not making it worse.”
This problem affects Ohio State in any game, but the team really faces the pressure of these mistakes in the challenging environment that is the Big Ten, Carlston said. Now deep into conference play, there won’t be any ‘easy’ games for the Buckeyes given the caliber of teams that make up their remaining games.
Iowa is coming to the Covelli Center on a five-game losing streak not seeing a win since its match against Northwestern on Sept. 27. But, Iowa’s team composition is similar to that of the Buckeyes, which will make for a well-matched game, Mauer said.
“In the past, they have a pretty fast offense; scrappy,” Mauer said. “I think we match up similar in styles of play and it’s kind of cool that it will be outside versus outside, slide versus slide.”
Sophomore opposite side hitter Courtney Buzzerio is leading the fast Iowa offense with 190 kills so far this season while sophomore middle hitter Amiya Jones is leading the Hawkeyes slide presence with 110 kills.
On Saturday, the Buckeyes will face a different approach from the Boilermakers. Ohio State will be facing a physical presence from Purdue, which will be the biggest adjustment the team will have to make from Wednesday to Saturday, Mauer said.
“I think we’re going to have to play a little smarter against Purdue with how they biog they are and how their block is,” Mauer said. “In terms of the offense they run, I think it’s very similar and so our game plan to stop them will be the same.”
Purdue, however, is coming off a two-game win streak and is being led offensively by sophomore outside hitter Grace Cleveland who has 203 kills on the season and junior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton who has 172 kills.
“There is not a bad team in our conference,” Carlston said. “There’s a lot of hard games and there’s no easy games and there’s a lot of us who are grinding.”
Currently, six of the 14 Big Ten teams are ranked within the top 25 in the country. Only four are ranked lower than No. 50 in the country.
With such a challenging conference, Carlston said the team is stressing the importance of winning at home, though their only two conference wins have been on the road so far.
The Buckeyes play Iowa Wednesday at 8 p.m. and Purdue Saturday at 7 p.m., with both games at the Covelli Center.