Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
With about six weeks left in the Ohio State women’s volleyball team’s season, senior outside hitter Emily Danks is trying to push her team as far as she can.
The Buckeyes (14-6, 5-3 Big Ten) find themselves fifth in conference standings and ranked No. 20 in the nation.
With a chance to upset Big Ten-leader and No. 1 Penn State on Wednesday, however, Danks and her fellow seniors might take one giant step toward that goal in their last year in Columbus.
“It’s my senior year, and I want to take this team as far as we possibly can,” Danks said. “More importantly I just want to enjoy everything, even the little things that sometimes we take for granted.”
Seniors outside hitter Mari Hole, middle blocker Mariah Booth and setter Amanda Peterson all echoed Danks’ comment.
“As Emily said, it’s our senior year, so of course we want to get as far as we can and, preferably, I would like it to be the best season we have ever had,” Hole said. “I also want to take care of the small things, and really appreciate what happens on a daily basis here in the gym that the outside world doesn’t get a chance to see or experience.”
Danks and Hole, who were both named honorable mention All-Americans by the American Volleyball Coach’s Association last season, agree that winning prestigious awards is an honor, but their success as a team is more important. “Getting awards is always flattering and special, but I care a lot more about the things we do together and how far we have come,” Danks said.
Peterson is ecstatic for the new season but is also ready to “live up” during her final year of being a collegiate athlete.
“As a freshman, you come in and you’re just kind of struggling to keep your head up above the water,” Peterson said. “Sophomore year, you come in and you kind of get it, junior year you’re trying to make a name for yourself and then senior year, you know what it’s about. Now it’s my time to sit back and appreciate the little things that maybe I haven’t appreciated the past three years, and just live up my last year.”
Now in their last year as student-athletes, the seniors’ time spent together during their career seems memorable.
“I never had a sister, so I really enjoyed having 14 of them,” Danks said. “I want to make sure I keep an eye out on all the important things, like moments with my teammates.”
Booth said she felt similarly.
“My teammates have been so important to me,” Booth said. “They mean more to me than anyone could possibly understand. I really can’t put that into words.”
One of the things Peterson said she loves about being a part of this team is the camaraderie on and off the court.
“Honestly, I just love playing with my teammates,” Peterson said. “When we all gel together, we can all tell on the court when were all playing as one unit. That’s the best feeling in the world, whether we win or lose.”
Coach Geoff Carlston said he has a great group of seniors on his team, and it has been an honor to coach them.
“It’s a great group, I like them a lot,” Carlston said. “They have come a long way since they first got here, and it has been fun to see their progress and to coach them.”
Danks, Booth, Peterson and Hole have a tough road ahead of them, as they have arguably one of the toughest schedules in the country this year with No. 1 Penn State, No. 3 Nebraska, No. 10 Minnesota, No. 17 Purdue, No. 22 Illinois and No. 25 Michigan State on the docket.
Even with a schedule filled with top-ranked opponents every weekend, Carlston knows that this group of seniors is more than capable of accomplishing the task at hand.
“That’s why I scheduled so hard, because I have confidence in them and that they are going to make some things happen this year,” Carlston said. “It’s because of them, they’re great leaders. They’re certainly the core of our team and I have a blast coaching them.”
OSU is scheduled to take on the Nittany Lions on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at St. John Arena.