The No. 23 Ohio State women’s volleyball team took home the NIU Invitational championship with a 3-0 victory against Liberty Friday and a pair of 3-2 wins against Green Bay and Northern Illinois Sunday.
Junior setter Taylor Sherwin, who dished out a total of 158 assists during the tournament, led the Buckeyes to the wins over Liberty and Green Bay before capping the weekend off with a victory against host Northern Illinois, which marked win No. 300 for Coach Geoff Carlston.
Carlston said he was happy to see his team keep their composure in high stress situations, especially in the tournament finale.
“We played almost perfect volleyball in the fifth set, with three freshmen on the floor at the same time.” Carlston said.
The Buckeye coach said all of the freshmen contributed during the tournament, but he was particularly impressed with the play of outside hitter Kylie Randall, who made her collegiate debut against Northern Illinois.
“She’s (going to) be an incredible player,” Carlston said. “Her first eight swings in college were kills, eight swings, eight kills, no errors.”
Randall said in an email she could feel the intensity of the situation but found her comfort level with help from Sherwin.
“I settled in when Taylor Sherwin looked at me and said be ready (to) go,” Randall said. “Then I knew it was time to make an impact.”
Randall finished the finale second on the team with 18 kills and senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary led the team with a career-high 26 kills.
Sherwin said via email that she did not realize she had put out an MVP caliber performance until after the tournament wrapped up, but she wanted to give credit to Randall and the other attackers.
“That’s what matters most to me,” she said. “For me to be able to put them in the best situations.”
While Sherwin and company put on an impressive display, Carlston said he recognizes that there is room for improvement.
“We put in a new offensive system about a week ago,” Carlston said. “We just (have to) keep building on that.”
Leary experienced some problems in the new offense, picking up 16 errors against Green Bay.
“I wasn’t making good shot selections and adjustments throughout that whole game,” Leary said in an email. “But it motivated me to redeem myself in the next game.”
She certainly stepped up in the finale against Northern Illinois, adding 22 digs to her career-high kill total.
“I was very happy to see 22 digs on the stat sheet,” Leary said. “It shows the improvement in an area I needed and have been working on.”
Beyond Leary’s performance, senior libero Davionna DiSalvatore said the team’s defense was strong throughout the tournament.
“Everyone did a really great job taking care of the tips, rolls and back row attacks,” DiSalvatore said in an email.
While the team performed well in both facets of the game, they still found time to honor their coach’s milestone, even though Carlston said he was not aware that it had been his 300th win.
He said the players had noisemakers waiting in the locker room after the match.
OSU returns to Columbus for an exhibition match against the Polish National Team at St. John Arena at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday.