The Big Ten schedule has been just as demanding as expected for the Ohio State women’s volleyball team thus far.
After dropping its Big Ten opener to Minnesota, OSU came away victorious in its second straight five-set marathon, defeating No. 16 Wisconsin (25-17, 18-25, 25-20, 21-25, 15-11) on Sunday at St. John Arena.
The Buckeyes (12-2, 1-1) and Badgers (8-4, 0-2) traded each of the five sets, with OSU taking the first, third and fifth, and Wisconsin taking the second and fourth.
Junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe led the charge for OSU with a game-leading 26.5 points on 20 kills, eight blocks (three solo) and one service ace.
“With every game, I think I’m trying to get better, focusing on what I’m doing on my side and staying in every point, one point at a time,” Sandbothe said. “I think that Wednesday was a little uncharacteristic of me, but I knew what I had to do today: come out and be strong for my team.”
The OSU freshmen again made strong contributions, with outside hitter Audra Appold notching 13 kills and setter Taylor Hughes assisting on a career-high 51 points to go along with eight digs, seven blocks (two solo) and five kills.
“I think they bring a whole other element to our team, just kind of keeping it fresh and keeping it new,” Sandbothe said of the freshmen. “Obviously, they knew what they had to get done today, so it was amazing to see them really step up and make an impact.”
Hughes said her transition to playing at the collegiate level has been challenging, but the support of her teammates and coaches has helped her ease into the big role she’s been given.
“It’s nice to have my teammates and my coaching staff to have the confidence in me and just showing that they know I can do it,” Hughes said. “They have my back.”
From the outset, it was clear that the OSU defense would play a huge role in the win. In her seventh double-double of the season, senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell had a team-leading 14 digs to go along with 14 kills. The Buckeyes were also able to slow down the Badgers’ offense with a season-high 15 blocks.
Six of those blocks came in the first set — four from Hughes — as OSU ran away with a 25-17 win. The set started off as a back-and-forth affair, but the Buckeyes eventually grabbed a 6-5 lead which was not relinquished.
OSU never led in the second set. After going down 8-2, OSU did battle its way back to tie things at 11, but the Badgers closed things out on a 14-7 run.
The Buckeyes took a 2-1 lead by winning the third set, but couldn’t close out the Badgers in the tightly contested fourth frame.
That forced a decisive fifth set, in which the Buckeyes jumped out to a 5-0 lead and didn’t look back. Despite a late charge by Wisconsin to close the gap to 12-10, OSU was able to win three of the final four points to take the match. OSU made only one attacking error in the final set en route to a .458 hit percentage.
The Buckeyes are set to return to the court on Friday when they match up against Iowa at St. John Arena at 7 p.m.