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Top spot in Big Ten on the line for Ohio State women’s volleyball

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Members of the OSU women's volleyball team celebrate during a game against Iowa on Oct. 2 at St. John Arena. OSU won 3-2. Credit: Giustino Bovenzi / Lantern Photographer

Members of the OSU women’s volleyball team celebrate during a game against Iowa on Oct. 2 at St. John Arena. OSU won 3-2. Credit: Giustino Bovenzi / Lantern Photographer

With an opportunity to grab first place in the Big Ten, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team is looking to keep its five-game winning streak alive in a pair of home matches this weekend.

On Friday night at 7 p.m., the No. 7 Buckeyes (16-2, 5-1) will welcome No. 18 Purdue (15-2, 6-0) to St. John Arena in a match for Big Ten supremacy.

The Boilermakers are one of the best attacking teams in the country, currently leading the conference in hitting percentage (.294) and kills per set (14.46). In order to slow down Purdue, it will take more than just defense, OSU coach Geoff Carlston said.

“If we serve really easy, it’s going to be a long night in that regard,” Carlston said. “We’re a decent serving team. It’s an area we’re trying to get better at and keep moving forward with.”

Leading the Purdue offense is senior outside hitter Annie Drews, the two-time reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, whose average of 4.32 kills per set ranks second in the conference.

Last season, the teams met only once, when Purdue pulled out a five-set win on its home floor in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Boilermakers hold a slim advantage in the all-time series, 42-41, and have won 12 of their last 15 matches against the Buckeyes.

If OSU is to break its recent cold spell against its rivals to the west, staying together as a team is imperative, sophomore defensive specialist Kalisha Goree said.

“We always just try to work on our culture and just always try to come together and stick together, whether we’re playing great or not great,” Goree said. “When we play together, we’re a pretty tough team to beat.”

After Purdue, the Buckeyes will turn to their attention to Indiana (12-6, 2-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m. Following two straight weekends of back-to-back matches on Friday and Saturday, Carlston is grateful to have a day in between to get ready for the Hoosiers.

“(Purdue and Indiana) are very different teams, and we’ll need it to prepare,” Carlston said. “I honestly haven’t watched any video of Indiana … just because I try to keep myself focused in the moment.”

When Carlston does start watching the Indiana video, he expects to see a scrappy defensive team.

“They’re going to fight and kick and scratch defensively,” he said. “They play with a lot of energy and they’re a team with momentum. I think we’ve got to be really prepared for them to come and play at a high level.”

OSU has won its last eight games against Indiana and holds a 49-26 series record against the Hoosiers.

Awards keep coming for OSU freshmen

For the second consecutive week, freshman outside hitter Audra Appold was named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week, as she helped lead OSU to wins over Northwestern and Illinois with a team-leading 35 kills and 25 digs. The Perrysburg, Ohio, native was also named the espnW national player of the week.

OSU’s other freshman, Taylor Hughes, was named the conference’s setter of the week. Hughes had 85 assists — an average of over 12 per set — in the weekend wins, including a career-high 52 against Illinois.

“It’s great for them, because they’ve been working hard,” Carlston said. “They come in here early every single day. They’re just good kids and they want to do right by the team. And their teammates love them.”

What’s next?

OSU is scheduled to be back on the road for a pair of games in Michigan, as it travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State on Oct. 21 before a match with archrival Michigan in Ann Arbor on Oct. 24.

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