Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
When Ohio State women’s volleyball coach Geoff Carlston first arrived on campus in 2008, he had no idea how colossal the OSU-Michigan rivalry truly was. During his first matchup with the team up north, he got a crude welcome to the battle.
“The first time we played them, we weren’t as strong as we are now,” Carlston said. “We got pretty much taken to town by Michigan both times. We just got demolished and it was hard.”
Carlston said the program has come a long way since then, and he’s optimistic about his team’s chances Friday, when it will battle Michigan at 7 p.m. at St. John Arena.
“You really felt the weight of that rivalry. You want to win, but we just weren’t there (my first year), so it’s fun to be in a place now where you got the rivalry and to be in a position where we can be competitive,” he said.
Carlston wasn’t the only one who had to learn about the momentous game. His seniors were on the same journey as he was back when they first stepped on campus.
Coming from Texas, senior outside hitter Emily Danks had no idea the rivalry existed.
“I have to be honest, when I came here I had no knowledge of Michigan,” Danks said. “So I had to be taught that we’re not supposed to like Michigan.”
Senior outside hitter Mari Hole, who came from Norway to California to Ohio, said she learned that the word “rivalry” had a whole new meaning here at OSU.
“I thought I knew what rivalry was before I played Michigan last year just because of the experience of UCLA against USC, but I could not be far more off,” Hole said.
Hole didn’t fully grasp the gravity of the competition until a stop at a restaurant in the northern state.
“I remember we walked into a restaurant in Michigan, and the whole restaurant started booing on us because we were wearing Ohio State gear,” Hole said. “I just remember we stopped in the middle and I had to start laughing because I thought it was the funniest thing ever. Although I haven’t been a Buckeye for as long as some of the other girls on the team, that definitely started a rivalry right there for me.”
The seniors are fully aware of the rivalry now and embrace every aspect of it – even parts that aren’t so politically correct.
“I think my favorite part about Michigan week is people getting all their T-shirts and the funny little phrases,” Danks said. “I love going to the T-shirt stands and getting the inappropriate ones that I might not be able to wear, but just to have.”
Even though most people think of football when talking about the competitive matchup, Carlston said that it goes beyond that one sport.
“I mean, even though it’s a football thing, I think it does spill over to all the other sports,” Carlston said. “So anytime we’re playing Michigan, we want to beat them.”
The matchup against Michigan will also serve as senior night.
“It’s an exclamation point,” said senior middle blocker Mariah Booth said. “It’s my last home game of the season of my four years. My college career is just all end of the road, my family will be here, it’s Michigan week and it’s just an exclamation point.”
Danks said as big as this game is in terms of rivalry, what really makes it memorable is the fact that her whole family will be at her game.
“It means the world to me,” Danks said. “They have always been my biggest supporters. My family doesn’t get to be together, except for maybe like three months out of a year. We’re usually all in five different states, so the fact that we can all come together and they’re here to support me, I’m really excited to play.”
Booth said that her family will be at the game as well, and the thought that her dad plans to come to see her play on her senior night makes her smile.
“My whole family is coming down, and my dad is coming down, and he’s always too busy with work,” Booth said. “For basketball he scouts the colleges like Ohio State and the Midwest region, so I don’t get to see him often this time of year. My mom, sisters and brothers are coming down, so it will be one of those rare occasions where I have my whole family with me together.”
Living thousands of miles away from home, Hole is ecstatic to have her sister at her game.
“She has never seen me play in the states,” Hole said. “She has seen me play at home, but it’s different. She has never seen games in this kind of environment. I want her to have a great time, and like any sister, I want to make an impression on her too.”
Hole said she will miss her time as a Buckeye and playing with her teammates who have become her sisters.
“It’s been an adventure, it’s been a great experience,” Hole said. “You never know what’s coming up next and that’s probably why we love this too. Every day is a battle in the gym, as well as every game. My experiences have been truly adventurous and has taught me how to battle and how to make some great friends.”