Despite going into two road matches as heavy favorites to win both, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team was able to come away with just one victory this weekend.
On Friday, the No. 12 Buckeyes had their losing streak extended to three in a surprising upset loss to Maryland (13-15, 3-11) before rebounding against Rutgers (4-22, 1-12) on Saturday for their 20th win of the season.
OSU’s loss to the Terrapins — just its second in program history — came by way of a three-set sweep, but the game was more closely contested than the final score indicated as each set was decided by only two points (25-23, 28-26, 27-25).
The loss came despite the best efforts of senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell, who came off the bench to lead her team with 12 kills. Junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe (nine kills, three blocks) and senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell (nine kills, two blocks) also broke the double-digit point barrier.
In place of freshman Taylor Hughes, who sat out both weekend games as she continues to nurse a left elbow injury, senior setter Emily Ruetter contributed 35 assists.
Maryland’s redshirt senior outside hitter Adreene Elliott was a thorn in the side of the Buckeyes all night, leading all players with 22.5 points on 18 kills, four service aces and one block assist.
Serving proved to be an area of difficulty for the OSU once again, as it committed 12 service errors against only three aces.
Defensively, the Scarlet and Gray weren’t as sharp as usual, allowing Maryland to hit at a .270 attack percentage, which is well above the .163 mark that OSU had allowed to opponents entering the game.
OSU raced out to a 9-6 lead in the first set, but Maryland came charging back with a 6-0 run to take the lead. The Terrapins would extend their advantage to as much as five before the Buckeyes charged back to level things at 21. From there, the home team retook momentum, ultimately squeaking out the narrow win to take an early lead in the match, despite being out-attacked .216 to .114 in the opening set.
Maryland led most of the way in the second set, but OSU grabbed multiple late leads at 22-20 and 24-23, threatening to even the match at one set apiece. The Buckeyes couldn’t finish the job, though, as they fell in extra points after several costly errors.
In the final set, the Buckeyes were the ones who held the lead for most of the way, but much like set two, they couldn’t finish the deal even though they attacked at a .385 clip. With a 24-22 lead and a chance to extend the match, Maryland again forced extra points and overcame the late deficit to complete the upset.
A date with last-place Rutgers proved to be what OSU needed to snap its three-game losing streak, as it ran away with a sweep (25-13, 25-16, 25-19). The three-set victory is the Buckeyes’ third in as many games over the Scarlet Knights since they joined the Big Ten last year.
Mitchell again led the way with 12 kills, while freshman outside hitter Audra Appold added 10.
OSU was able to get back on track from the service line, racking up eight aces — led by Campbell’s three — against five errors.
After going down 3-2 early in the first set, the Buckeyes went on an 11-0 run to take a commanding lead and would not trail again for the remainder of the match, coming away with decisive victories in all three frames.
Led by Ruetter’s 35 assists, the Buckeyes attacked consistently throughout the match, putting up at least a .360 attack percentage in each set en route to a .372 rate for the contest.
Meanwhile, Rutgers’ offense was held to a .138 hitting percentage on the evening and hit above .100 in just one of three sets, partly thanks to five blocks by Sandbothe.
With six games left in Big Ten play, OSU now has a 9-5 conference record, leaving them tied with Purdue for fifth place in the conference standings.
The Buckeyes are set to return to their home court on Wednesday, looking to complete a season sweep of No. 18 Illinois. The match is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.