The No. 17 Ohio State women’s volleyball team is set for a chance at a season sweep against No. 12 Illinois when the two teams go head-to-head Wednesday night.
The Fighting Illini (19-6, 11-3) and Buckeyes (18-8, 9-5) played earlier this season in Columbus in a closely contested battle. Ending in five sets, the Buckeyes prevailed, 16-14, in the final frame.
Three days later, the Fighting Illini traveled to then-No. 5 Penn State and defeated the defending national champions in four sets.
Coach Geoff Carlston said he expects the Fighting Illini coaching staff to motivate the team because the previous matchup was so close and either team could’ve won.
“Obviously there’s going to be a little bit of a payback,” Carlston said. “I’m sure their coaching staff is going to use that, say, ‘Hey remember what happened last time?’ Whenever you play a team twice, and you win the first one, there’s some motivation there certainly, and playing at their court, they have a good crowd, and it’s a lot tougher to play on the road than it is at home.”
Since playing in Columbus on Oct. 8, the Fighting Illini have won eight of nine conference matches, with the lone loss coming at Northwestern on Nov. 5. The Buckeyes have won six of nine conference matchups in that stretch.
Freshman outside hitter Luisa Schirmer said she’s seen a lot of improvement in the team since playing the Fighting Illini earlier this season.
“We’ve been getting better, we’ve been working hard to fix a few things that we know we wanted to make some improvements on,” Schirmer said.
She added that the Buckeyes need to work on “staying steady and consistent” if they want to come out of Huff Hall with a win.
Freshman defensive specialist Kalisha Goree has seen improvements in the gym, too, she said.
“Every day we’re just coming here trying to get better,” Goree said. “And I can see an improvement in all the girls.”
The Fighting Illini will be led by sophomore middle blocker Katie Stadick, who ranks first in the Big Ten in blocks per set with an average of 1.46. Redshirt-junior outside hitter Jocelynn Birks is also top in the conference in points per set with an average of 4.54.
The team as a whole is first in the conference in blocks, averaging 2.88 per set, and second in digs with 15.01 per set.
Senior outside hitter Erin Sekinger said the team will treat Wednesday’s contest like any other match, even though the Fighting Illini might be fighting for revenge.
“We just have to take every road trip like it is,” Sekinger said. “We just have to really focus and do what we did against them when they came to our house.”
Wednesday’s match is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. in Champaign, Ill.