Geoff Carlston scheduled tough for a reason. In an effort to prepare his team for Big Ten play, the Ohio State women’s volleyball coach tasked his squad with one of the hardest nonconference schedules in the country.
Thus far, it’s safe to say the team has responded well.
OSU took home its second straight tournament win over the weekend at the Blackbird Invitational in Brooklyn, New York, beating a pair of teams who came into the competition without a loss.
On Friday, the No. 15 Buckeyes (8-1) took care of host Long Island University Brooklyn (0-7), before topping Syracuse (6-2) and No. 13 Arizona (8-1) on Saturday. After losing its season opener to Wyoming, OSU has now won eight straight matches, including three against top-15 opponents.
Led by a strong defensive showing, OSU defeated previously unbeaten Arizona in four sets (25-22, 22-25, 25-22, 29-27) in its final match of the weekend.
The contest proved to be a tough early-season test for Carlston’s squad, featuring 31 ties and 12 lead changes as neither team won a set by more than three points.
Junior libero Valeria León came up big for the defense, helping the Buckeyes hold Arizona to a .173 attack percentage. León set a new career high with 35 digs, breaking her previous best of 32 which was set just a week earlier against Florida State. Her efforts also marked the second-best single-game total in OSU history, and the most in a four-set match.
The Buckeyes also had 14 blocks against the Wildcats, tying a season high. Four Buckeyes picked up at least three total blocks, while nine different players had at least one. Senior middle blocker Tyler Richardson led the way with five blocks, while junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe had four.
Senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell had her third double-double of the season against the Wildcats, with a team-leading 19 kills to go along with 10 digs. Freshman setter Taylor Hughes also had a double-double — her third in as many games and fourth on the season — via 24 assists and 10 digs.
Saturday’s first match was a four-set OSU win over Syracuse (25-12, 23-25, 25-23, 25-18), who had also entered the tournament undefeated before losing twice.
Campbell again led the Buckeyes in points with 27, picking up 23 kills, four blocks and two service aces. Sandbothe put up big numbers as well, with 25 points on 18 kills, eight blocks (four solo) and one ace.
OSU’s two freshmen — setter Taylor Hughes and outside hitter Audra Appold — continued to establish themselves as key contributors with impressive performances against the Orange. Hughes had her second of three double-doubles on the weekend on 36 assists and 10 digs, and Appold nearly had one of her own with nine kills and 11 digs.
León once more led all players in digs with 22, averaging 5.5 per set.
The Buckeyes didn’t have much of a problem against winless LIU Brooklyn in their first game of the weekend, rolling to a win in three sets by a combined 31 points (25-17, 25-10, 25-17).
OSU never trailed in the first set, but was slow out of the gate in the second as LIU Brooklyn grabbed an early 6-3 lead. The Buckeyes were able to gather themselves, however, closing the set on a 22-4 run.
A pair of senior outside hitters led the OSU offense, as Campbell had 12 kills and Katie Mitchell tacked on 11 at a .450 attacking percentage. Sandbothe continued her hot start to the season with 13.5 points on nine kills, six blocks (one solo) and one ace.
The freshmen again played a big role in a win as Hughes had her second career double-double with 35 assists and 10 digs, while Appold had eight kills and three blocks.
León was named the Blackbird Invitational’s most valuable player after leading all players with 71 digs (6.5 per set). For a second straight weekend, she was joined by Sandbothe (38 kills, 17 blocks) and Campbell (54 kills, 23 digs) on an all-tournament team.
OSU is scheduled to wrap up its nonconference schedule in the Golden Grizzlies Invitational next weekend, facing Eastern Illinois and Western Michigan on Sept. 18, and Oakland on Sept. 19.