The Buckeyes have just six matches left to prove their merit for the NCAA Tournament, and at this point, every game counts.
Ohio State (13-13, 6-8 Big Ten) goes on the road this weekend to take on No. 16 Purdue (16-7, 8-6) Friday and Indiana (13-14, 2-12) Saturday. The Buckeyes hope both games will help their chance of qualifying for the post-season tournament, head coach Geoff Carlston said.
“We have to know what we need to get there, but stay present,” Carlston said. “The reality is: We have six matches. We’re one of eight teams in the Big Ten that are still eligible, and we’re grateful for that, but we have to get better.”
The first team in front of the Buckeyes is Purdue, which sits at No. 6 in the Big Ten and beat the Buckeyes in their previous matchup Oct. 19. Junior outside hitter Caitlin Newton leads the Boilermakers with 295 season kills.
A seemingly lesser threat faces the Buckeyes Saturday as they travel to Bloomington, Indiana, to take on the Hoosiers. Indiana boasts just two conference wins this season, rendering Ohio State the favorite –– especially after its upset win over then-No. 4 Wisconsin Friday.
With any Big Ten match, high-level gameplay is required, which is why the Buckeyes are working on their offensive strength in practice this week.
“We’ve been kind of changing a couple of things in our offense, so really in that aspect, fine-tuning that,” junior setter Becca Mauer said. “Focusing on the difference between good errors and bad errors and thinking about in practice that every rep matters.”
The Buckeyes must raise their level of play in practice first so that it reflects in upcoming games, Mauer said. Errors have been an issue for the Buckeyes across games, and they are working to reduce the errors that have cost them crucial points.
“Things that we’re seeing in practice are translating to the game either negatively or positively,” Mauer said. “I think fine-tuning that and eliminating a lot of unforced errors and translating that into the scrimmage we’re doing because it will eventually translate into the game.”
Carlston said the team is using practice to work on building upon the things that help them win, and the goal this week is to establish a consistent, competitive voice and clinch a few more wins.
“It doesn’t matter who we beat but it’s always the one right in front of us,” Carlston said.
Mauer said the Buckeyes see each match as a building block, and heading into this weekend, they’ve started adding up.
“I think that what encompasses our season is we’ve just been grinding since the very beginning through injuries and figuring out what works,” Mauer said. “I think we’re finally figuring it out, and things are connecting.”
Ohio State will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Purdue and 5 p.m. Saturday at Indiana.