The Ohio State women’s volleyball team hit the road this weekend to take on the first two of its Big Ten opponents. However, the Buckeyes will be coming back to Columbus with a winless beginning to the conference season.
The No. 17 Buckeyes first traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, to battle the No. 3 Badgers. OSU didn’t have much time to recoup after the three-set loss before they took off for Minneapolis, where the team played the No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers in less than 24 hours.
OSU was able to temporarily stop the Gophers’ momentum, pushing the match into four sets, but the Buckeyes would come out empty-handed yet again and end the weekend, 0-2.
On a brighter note, senior libero Valeria León is inching closer to clinching the career digs title. Her total after the weekend tallies 1,477, placing her within 100 digs from the record currently held by Stacey Gordon, the 2004 National Player of the Year.
More than 6,000 fans packed inside the University of Wisconsin Field House for the Big Ten opening match-up. An hour and a half later, the Badger crowd would be celebrating with their team on its first conference victory.
The first set seemed like it would be a close battle until OSU errors and dominant Badger hitting allowed Wisconsin to pull away. At 17-11, OSU coach Geoff Carlston took a timeout to refocus his team, but the Badgers came right out with a block. A handful of Wisconsin kills would end the set, 25-16.
Sophomore outside hitter Audra Appold put OSU up 2-0 in the second set, with a couple quick kills, assisted by each of OSU’s setters: senior Abby Fesl and sophomore Taylor Hughes. At 11-11, the Badgers rolled on a four-point run and another later in the set, making the score 23-17. Wisconsin finished the set on top, 25-19.
The final set featured Wisconsin jumping out to a 5-0 lead, creating a hole in which the Buckeyes couldn’t climb out of. The Badgers would take the set and match, 25-17.
The Wisconsin blocking game greatly overshadowed the Buckeyes’ — 15 team blocks compared to two. The Badgers also held OSU to only a .115 hitting percentage during the match.
Junior outside hitter Luisa Schirmer posted 13 kills, followed by Appold with 10.
Two OSU freshmen would start the opening set and match against the Gophers: middle hitter Madison Smeathers and outside hitter Bia Franklin.
The Buckeyes would trail the entirety of the set, including one instance where OSU found itself down nine points at 15-6. The Golden Gophers would eventually take the opening set, 25-16.
The second set saw an early OSU lead at 4-1. A few costly errors on the Buckeyes’ side of the net were made, and Minnesota capitalized on the opportunity. The Gophers rode the lead change to the end of the set, 25-18.
Relief in the third gave OSU its first set win of the weekend. An 8-3 score in favor of the Buckeyes would force Minnesota to take a timeout. OSU spread its offense and tallied kills from six different players. Appold swung for six kills, while teammate freshman middle hitter Madison Smeathers slammed down four balls.
With some momentum finally on their side, the Buckeyes entered the fourth set. OSU would keep play close, all the way up until the teams were tied at 19-19.
Two OSU attacking errors and a Minnesota block would give the Gophers the advantage. Two kills from the hand of Minnesota’s Sarah Wilhite put the nail in the Buckeyes’ coffin, 25-22.
León racked up 22 digs in the match, while teammate Appold would hold the top spot in kills with 15. Schirmer also served for three aces.
The OSU volleyball team (10-4) will see play again this week when the team hosts their first home match of the season. The Buckeyes will face Northwestern at St. John Arena at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.