The Ohio State women’s volleyball team seems to have gotten its confidence back, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
In front of its home crowd in St. John Arena on Friday evening, the 12th-seeded Buckeyes swept Robert Morris by a combined 35 points (25-13, 25-16, 25-11) to advance to the Round of 32.
“We know that we’re a force to be reckoned with and plan on going deep into this tournament,” senior middle blocker Andrea Kacsits said.
The Buckeyes controlled the match from the start, as it outhit the Colonials by a wide margin, .319 to minus-.022, and out-killed them 42-18.
Freshman setter Taylor Hughes guided the ship with 29 assists, while also contributing four service aces and two kills.
Two of the main recipients of Hughes’ sets were junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe and freshman outside hitter Audra Appold, who led all players with 11 kills each.
“We were just trying to execute our gameplan,” Sandbothe said. “I think that they did a good job defending us, but when we had the swings that were open, we just were going ball to the wall.”
Although the Scarlet and Gray had solid offensive numbers, coach Geoff Carlston said he is still looking for improvement from his team into the next round of the tournament.
“We’re going to have to be a little smoother,” he said. “We got a little predictable, I think.”
OSU’s leading attackers also had big defensive nights, with Sandbothe picking up six blocks (three solo) and Appold adding 11 digs to give her a double-double.
As a team, the Buckeyes picked up nine more digs (44-35) than the Colonials, who entered the contest ranked ninth in the country in digs per set. Junior libero Valeria León had a game-high 13 digs, right on pace with her team-leading 4.34 per set rate for the season.
“That was our goal,” Carlston said. “We wanted to out-defend them and outwork them on defense and figured the offense would come.”
From the start, it was clear that OSU was the better team on Friday.
As ended up being the case for the entirety of the match, Robert Morris couldn’t get anything going on offense in the first set, with only four kills against nine errors for a minus-.152 hitting percentage.
Sandbothe made her presence known quickly, getting a block on three straight points early to fuel a 5-0 run and registering four total in the opening frame. She also led the Buckeyes offensively with five kills.
The second set brought more of the same for OSU, as it out-hit the Colonials .368-.029 and never trailed. Sandbothe continued her dominance with six more kills and a pair of blocks, while Appold added five kills.
Sandbothe didn’t play in the third frame, but it didn’t slow the Buckeyes down much. Robert Morris hung around early in the third to keep things tied at nine, but Hughes stepped to the service line and delivered three services aces in helping her team go on a 9-0 run, putting the set — and the match — well out of reach.
OSU will now turn its attention to American, which swept Kentucky earlier in the night, as it attempts to advance to the Sweet 16 for a second straight season.
With less than 24 hours to prepare, Carlston said he’s readying for a late night as he puts together a gameplan for the Eagles.
“I’m excited, our players are excited. It’ll be a fun match,” he said. “So we’ll just watch a lot of video, put it together and give it to them at 10:30 tomorrow morning and let them go. It’s up to them at that point.”
The Saturday match is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. in St. John Arena.