For the fourth time in six seasons, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team will be heading to the Sweet 16.
With a sweep (25-23, 25-11, 25-17) of American in the Round of 32 on Saturday evening in St. John Arena, OSU will move on to play No. 5 seed Washington, which topped Michigan State Saturday night.
“It means a lot to this team,” senior middle blocker Tyler Richardson said. “Throughout this season, we’ve been working really hard … That’s one goal we’ve all been working towards all season. We’re really excited.”
Once again, unanimous all-Big Ten selection and junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe was the leader on the court for the Buckeyes with 15 kills, five blocks and two aces to give her a game-high 20 points.
“She’s our stud,” OSU coach Geoff Carlston said. “The thing that Taylor’s doing right now is she’s mixing up her shots … She’s grown as a hitter. Her IQ and her willingness to hit some different shots has been huge. And, certainly, she’s one of our emotional leaders out there and she was pretty great tonight.”
Complementing Sandbothe was senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell, who added 14 kills, attacking at a .542 clip for the night. Freshman setter Taylor Hughes had 38 assists — her personal best in a three-set match — in helping to guide the Buckeyes to a .380 hitting percentage.
A big night from the service line also propelled OSU, as it sent home 10 aces, its second-best total of the season. Hughes and junior libero Valeria León had three aces apiece, while Sandbothe and senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell both had a deuce.
“We just served a little bit more aggressive,” Carlston said. “We served some seams and got them out of their rhythm.”
For the second time in as many nights, the Buckeyes were able to shut down their opposition’s offense. This time around, the Scarlet and Gray limited American to a .128 hitting percentage and only 23 kills for the match.
“‘Relentless’ defense, that’s a big word for us,” senior setter Emily Ruetter said. “I think we’ve been finally showing it back on the court again, so that’s why our defense is being as productive as it is.”
At the outset, it was both teams who struggled to get going offensively, with neither team attacking better than .212 clip. Although OSU never trailed in the first set, American simply wouldn’t go away. The Buckeyes stretched their lead to as much as six, but the pesky Eagles kept battling their way back in it with timely blocks (four) and aces (four).
Even when the Scarlet and Gray went up 24-20, they had trouble putting American away, allowing three consecutive points before a Sandbothe kill ended things.
The Buckeye offense got rolling in the second set, however, racing out to a quick 5-0 advantage, a lead that would not be relinquished. OSU had five aces and attacked at a .393 clip for the set, while American hit a measly .000 and put away only three kills.
The trend continued in the third set, as OSU posted a whopping .548 attack percentage and made only two errors. Hughes had 16 assists in the closing frame, while Sandbothe dominated on the attacking end, picking up eight kills and two blocks.
The Buckeyes’ Sweet 16 match is set to be held in the Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky, with a start time that’s still to be announced.
But for now, the team isn’t worried about its next opponent.
“We’re going to enjoy this tonight, we’re going to enjoy it tomorrow and then Monday get back in the gym,” Carlston said. “This is a big deal.”