Once in the midst of an eight-match losing streak, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team’s fortune has taken a turn for the better.
The Buckeyes are fresh off two statement victories: a sweep of Indiana and a four-set win against then-No. 14 Purdue.
While the team is still unranked, the Buckeyes will have to remain focused as they hit the road for matches against two ranked opponents this weekend.
OSU is scheduled to face off against No. 11 Minnesota in Minneapolis at 8 p.m. Friday, before heading to Madison, Wis., for a date with No. 14 Wisconsin at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Freshman setter Maggie Heim said the team has to remain focused and disciplined, especially on the road.
“These are going to be two huge crowds,” she said. “So staying intent on what we need to get done, what we’re there for (will be important).”
Both teams have topped OSU at home this season. The then-No.19 Badgers topped the Buckeyes 3-2 Oct. 11 in Columbus while No. 11 Minnesota swept OSU on its home court the following night. Those were also the first two losses of OSU’s eight-match losing streak.
Senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Leary said it will be important to focus on the Golden Gophers first because OSU cannot afford to overlook any Big Ten team.
“Minnesota is just a really good team, so we have to play hard,” she said. “(Last) weekend, I think we played well as a team together, so we’ll have to do that.”
Leary added Wisconsin will be just as ready for the Buckeyes, since the teams have already played this season.
“Obviously, we know more about them, they know more about us now,” she said. “Whatever the coaches set for our game plan, we need to follow that and just play together as a team.”
Leary leads the Big Ten this season with 476 kills, followed by freshman middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe’s 225.
Sandbothe was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week after tallying a combined 26 kills against Indiana and Purdue.
“It’s a huge honor, to get Big Ten Freshman of the Week,” Sandbothe said. “It’s just really humbling, the fact that I have a big impact on this team.”
The challenge facing OSU is finding a way to stop Minnesota senior middle blocker Tori Dixon, who is sixth in the Big Ten in average kills per set and is tied for third in blocks per set, if it wants to win Friday.
“We’re going to try to get four hands on her every time,” senior defensive specialist Julianne Mandolfo said about Dixon. “She’s going to get her kills, but if we minimize them, then I think we put ourselves in a very good position to win the game.”
No matter how many kills Dixon gets, the Buckeyes will have to turn around and face Wisconsin Sunday before making their way back to Columbus. OSU is scheduled to return home Nov. 22 for a match against No. 25 Illinois.