The No. 13 Ohio State women’s volleyball team started its season by winning 13 straight matches, including a four set victory over then-No. 10 Michigan. The team’s winning streak came to a halt when the Buckeyes fell to No. 15 Michigan State in three straight sets.
The Buckeyes (13-1) struggled early against the Spartans on Sunday, but still had a chance in each set. OSU jumped out to an 18-14 lead in the match’s opening set, but MSU fought back to take get the win, 27-25.
Throughout the match, OSU struggled with passing, due partially to dominant serving from its opponent. The Spartans finished the day with eight service aces, as well as 14 errors. These problems and Michigan State’s strong serving led to OSU dropping the next two sets, 25-23 and 25-22.
Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary finished with 10 kills in the losing effort and said her and her teammates must use this match to grow as they move forward in Big Ten play.
“We just didn’t come out strong, and we’re gonna use this, work on what we need to do this week to be ready for Indiana and Purdue next week,” Leary said.
OSU coach Geoff Carlston was also impressed with the Spartans’ serving game.
“We just didn’t pass very well, but in Michigan State’s defense that’s the toughest serving team I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Carlston said the match exhibited poor play from some typical stars, while some others were able to step up.
“We rely a lot on Kaitlyn Leary and she struggled today,” Carlston said. “I thought our freshmen really stepped up and played well.”
Leary had an uncharacteristic seven errors on top of her 10 kills while freshman right side hitter Taylor Sandbothe led the team with 12 kills while committing just one error. Sanbothe’s classmate, outside hitter Kylie Randall, added 11 kills of her own to go along with two errors.
Following the first set, Carlston made a change at the libero position, as senior Julianne Mandolfo donned the scarlet jersey instead of senior Davionna DiSalvatore.
“Davionna got aced three times in one set (against MSU), that’s something that can’t happen,” Carlston said. “That’s the luxury we have. They’re both really, really good and so if one is struggling, we can put the other one in and vice versa.”
Carlston also shuffled his lineup late in the match, throwing sophomore outside hitter Katie Mitchell onto the court in the third set in hopes of extending the match.
“What we had been doing the past two sets hadn’t been working,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the team’s cohesion will have to improve this week in practice.
“We kind of fell apart a little bit,” she said. “We need to bounce back as a group.”
Freshman outside hitter Chloe Reinig and senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski led the way for the Spartans with 12 kills each.
Even with a loss to the Spartans, the players were able to take some positives away from its win against Michigan on Friday night, especially the great play of Sandbothe and Randall, Leary said. She said she was proud to see them step up.
“They both really stepped up as freshmen and we needed that, especially with me starting off a little slow, they definitely brought that and that’s what helped us win this game tonight,” Leary said Friday.
Sandbothe said there were a lot of emotions for her coming into the first Michigan clash of her college career.
“There’s a lot of people here, so I was a little nervous, but excited,” she said after the win against the Wolverines. “This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of.”
The official attendance for the match against Michigan was about 4,500.
Even though the Buckeyes came out victorious, the team struggled at times. OSU led the second set 22-16 before eventually losing 27-25.
Randall said the team made some mistakes at the service line that contributed to the loss.
“In the second game, we missed four to five in a row so I think we could definitely work on that,” she said.
Carlston added that the personnel OSU had on the court in the set it lost did not leave them with a very good chance to win.
“We got stuck in a rotation that we weren’t playing very well in and they were playing very well in, and that’s the game,” he said.
Leary led the match with 22 kills while Sandbothe recorded 12 kills and eight blocks and Randall finished 11 kills and four blocks.
OSU is set to travel to Indiana this weekend for its first road matches of the Big Ten season. The Buckeyes are scheduled to play Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., at 7 p.m. Friday and Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., at the same time Saturday.