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OSU volleyball in middle of crowded Big Ten pack

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With four matches left to play this season, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team finds itself in the middle of the log-jam that is the Big Ten standings.

After a loss Friday to Illinois (3-1) and a victory over Wisconsin Sunday (3-2), the Buckeyes are once again .500 on the Big Ten season with a conference record of 8-8.

“It’s the last mile of the marathon,” senior outside hitter Anna Szerszen said. “You’ve got to push.”

The push the Buckeyes are hoping to make would land them in the NCAA Tournament.

“Every match is important because you are trying to sell yourself to the NCAA selection committee,” OSU coach Geoff Carlston said. “Right now, we are trying to build a resume.”

The grueling Big Ten schedule the Buckeyes have braved should help their cause.

Eight Big Ten teams received votes in the Nov. 8 AVCA Division 1 Coaches Poll, with Penn State leading the charge at No. 8. Illinois followed at No. 9, Michigan at No. 16, Minnesota at No. 22 and Northwestern at No. 24. OSU, Purdue and Indiana also received votes.

Eight Big Ten teams also find themselves among the top 33 in Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), the most of any conference in the country.

“It was a really important win, especially in terms of Big Ten standings,” sophomore outside hitter Emily Danks said. “Every win puts us closer to making the NCAA Tournament.”

With Penn State, Northwestern and Minnesota looming on the horizon, the Buckeyes’ room for error is dwindling.

“We have to make sure that when we have the opportunity to make a play, we are doing it,” Carlston said.

With a strong finish against three ranked teams, the Buckeyes, who are 20-9 overall this season, should have a good case to make for a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“We just need to finish strong. We can’t coast,” Danks said. “Every game is a big game so (we have to) take everything seriously, put everything we’ve got into every game.”

The Big Ten championship might be out of reach for the Buckeyes, but they know late-season wins will give them momentum heading into the tournament.

“That’s what differentiates champions,” Szerszen said. “How good can you be at the end of the season?”

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