After suffering just its third loss of the season in a three-set upset at the hands of Michigan State on Wednesday, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team will look to rebound this weekend against another rival from the Wolverine State.
That rival is No. 23 Michigan (15-5, 5-4), who the Buckeyes (18-3, 7-2) will be seeing for the first time this season in Ann Arbor on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The intense rivalry between the two schools gives OSU extra motivation to beat the Wolverines on their own floor, sophomore outside hitter Ashley Wenz said.
“Being from Ohio all my life, you can’t even say ‘Michigan’ without people saying something,” Wenz said. “So it gives us a little more ‘oomph’ in how we play against them.”
Last year, the teams split their two matchups when both won on its home floor. OSU hasn’t won a game in Cliff Keen Arena — in which Michigan has a 10-2 record this season – since 2011, but the Buckeyes are hoping to change their recent history this weekend.
“(We’re) really amped up, really pumped up, especially because last time we went it wasn’t so good on our end,” senior middle blocker Tyler Richardson said. “This year, we’re ready and I think we’re all really excited. It’s Michigan.”
OSU is preparing for an unfriendly crowd in Ann Arbor, something senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell said she’s become accustomed to in her four years donning scarlet and gray.
“They hate us, and it’s pretty obvious,” Mitchell said. “You play in an old pool so it’s a very intimate setting with 2,000 people that just hate you so much and want you to lose … it’s always fun to go in there and turn the smile upside down.”
Michigan was picked by Big Ten coaches to finish ninth in the conference before the season, just behind OSU; but like the Buckeyes, the Wolverines have been turning some heads with their play this season.
Led by junior middle blocker and preseason all-Big Ten selection Abby Cole — who leads the team in kills per set (3.08), attack percentage (.360), service aces (9) and total blocks (75) — Michigan won its first 10 games of the season and took No. 5 Penn State to the brink of defeat in a five-set loss on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to be ready on the road because everyone’s going to be coming after us,” OSU coach Geoff Carlston said. “Michigan’s an important match on so many different levels.”
The Buckeyes hold a 49-22 all-time record against the Wolverines, but the series has been more even as of late, with the teams splitting their last six matchups.
OSU’s two senior middle blockers, Andrea Kacsits and Richardson, are both from Michigan and are looking forward to being back home.
Kacsits is eager to see people from her hometown — both in the stands and on the court.
“All the games mean so much just because you put your heart and soul into all of them,” Kacsits, a native of Rockford, Michigan, said. “But these ones are kind of fun because a lot of my club friends and high school friends and people that I haven’t seen in a long time either are playing in the game or coming to watch the game.”
Richardson, who hails from Ypsilanti, Michigan, a town less than 10 miles from Ann Arbor, said the game means a lot to her because she gets to visit home and due to the magnitude of the rivalry between the two schools.
The Buckeyes are set to play host to defending national champion Penn State on Wednesday in St. John Arena at 7 p.m. OSU will be looking to snap a 16-game losing streak against the Nittany Lions that dates back to 2006.