The Buckeye mojo shifted to a more positive tune after a Saturday night win against the Terrapins.
Ohio State (12-12, 5-7 Big Ten) hosted Maryland (12-12, 4-8) on Saturday and broke a two-game losing streak with an at-home, 3-0 win.
“This was a huge match for both of us,” head coach Geoff Carlston said. “That was a gut-wrenching loss on Wednesday, one of the hardest of my career, and for our team to be able to come back and play with the energy and enthusiasm we did today was cool.”
Freshman outside hitter Jenaisya Moore led the Buckeyes with 19 match kills, followed closely by freshman outside hitter Gabby Gonzales who had 14.
After losing their even record with a mid-week loss against Minnesota, the Buckeyes hoped to rebound with a Big Ten win. As the season carries on, each game grows in importance and each win gets the Buckeyes closer to their goal of playing in the NCAA tournament, senior middle hitter Elle Sandbothe said.
“Something that we really took from the last game was confidence,” Sandbothe said. “We’re kind of scrapping for Big Ten wins right now because we want to make the tournament. That is our No. 1 goal.”
Ohio State came out hot with plenty of aggressive swings in the first set, capturing a 25-18 win after opening on a 9-4 run that forced a Maryland timeout.
“We challenge them to come in and commit and believe that the set’s going to be there,” Carlston said. “I think they did a good job of that and it was a large large part of why we won.”
This was the Terrapins second shot at the Buckeyes, and Ohio State was prepared for a tougher match than last time. Opening the Big Ten with their first match against Maryland, Sandbothe said this game was completely different because of how each team has matured since then.
“I would say the biggest difference is just timing,” Sandbothe said. “They’re a completely different team now, we’re a completely different team now so we just had to focus on the basics and get them out of system.”
The Buckeyes faced a small hiccup in the second set, trailing most of the way and consistently falling victim to the Terrapin block. However, Ohio State improved their block coverage about halfway through the set and turned the slow start into a set win.
“The best coverage match of the year for sure,” Carlston said. “By far that gave us second and third chances we just haven’t had.”
Similarly, the Buckeyes had a slow third-set start, losing to the Terrapins until the tail-end of the set. In true heart-racing fashion, it took the Buckeyes until point 30 to clinch the sweep.
This set created the biggest need for defense of the entire match. The Buckeyes rose to the challenge, out-digging Maryland 61 to 50. That number was evenly contributed to by junior setter Becca Mauer and freshman defensive specialist Kylie Murr who each had 14 digs.
This defensive presence kept the Maryland offense relatively quiet with their kill leader, junior outside hitter Erika Pritchard, only grabbing 12 in the match.
Moving forward through the rest of their Big Ten games, the team will take the energy built by each win to carry them into the next match.
“The drive we have right now, the motivation we have to make that tournament is what we’re fighting with and using to build momentum in these games,” Sandbothe said.
The Buckeyes are set to play at the Covelli Center once again on Friday. They will face No. 4 Wisconsin.