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Women’s volleyball: OSU hosting two pivotal Big Ten home matches

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Ohio State's libero Valeria Leon passes a ball in the regional quarterfinal versus Washington on December 11, 2015. Credit: Ohio State Athletics

Ohio State’s libero Valeria Leon passes a ball in the regional quarterfinal versus Washington on December 11, 2015. Credit: Ohio State Athletics

On Oct. 1, the No. 19 Ohio State women’s volleyball team stunned the fans in Lincoln, Nebraska, as they conquered the defending national champions and No. 1 team in the country, the Nebraska Huskers, in four sets. On Friday, the Huskers will travel to Columbus for another matchup – and it’s safe to say the Huskers will be out for revenge.

In what will be OSU’s only second home match this season, they will be playing Nebraska for the final go-around of the season. Since the Buckeyes last saw the Huskers on Oct. 1, Nebraska has dropped down to the No. 2 spot in the nation with OSU once again holding the No. 19 position.

The Buckeyes won’t have much time before they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, also at St. John Arena.

OSU head coach Geoff Carlston said his team will have to prepare for each of the teams mentally, physically, and tactically because each of the opponents are different from the other.

Since the Huskers’ last meeting with the Buckeyes, the team has added two more tallies to their win column with sweeps against Indiana and Purdue. They now hold 14-1 record overall. The Huskers also hold a perfect record on the road (4-0).

Carlston said if his team wants to have the same success they did during their last meeting with Nebraska, they’ll need to maintain their composure.

“For us, it’s replicating, if anything, the poise that we showed,” he said. “The ‘next point, this point’ mentality that we showed – I thought that was something we really did well.”

The Buckeyes are the only school in the conference to record a non-losing record (4-4) vs. Nebraska since the Huskers joined the conference in 2011.

Following their battle with Nebraska, the Buckeyes will host the Hawkeyes. Iowa is currently ranked above OSU in the Big Ten standings at 4-2. They boast a 14-4 record with wins over Purdue and Indiana.

Carlston said he and Iowa head coach Bond Shymansky are good friends, and Carlston knows how well Shymansky can guide his team.

“They’re very different than Nebraska. Our challenge will be trying to figure out how we want to break up the next couple days in terms of preparation,” he said.

Now 50 days into the 2016 season, OSU has only played on St. John’s court once (Northwestern, Sept. 28). Carlston said exactly how taxing the opening part of his season has been.

“This is the longest road trip, most difficult beginning of any season I’ve had as a coach,” he said.

With the opportunity to host a weekend of home play, some Buckeye team members expressed their happiness about playing in a familiar place.

“We’ve only had one home game so far, so being back home will be comforting and just really awesome to be back in our own locker room and our own beds,” said freshman outside hitter Brooke Bailey.

Bailey’s teammate, senior libero Valeria León, echoed her thoughts.

“It feels like the Northwestern match was forever ago. We love playing here,” León said. “We love playing in front of our Buckeye fans, so that’s definitely something we’re looking forward to.”

León is just 35 digs away from breaking the OSU career dig record. She has already scraped up 271 balls this season and is averaging 4.71/digs per set. It’s possible that she could secure her place in Buckeye history as soon as this weekend.

She said to even be within reach of this accomplishment is a huge honor.

“When you first come here, you never think you’ll even be talking about this, so it’s really cool, and I feel really blessed,” she said.

León also had some veteran advice about what her team needs to do to anchor down two more wins at home this weekend.

“We need to just go out there and play volleyball (and) have fun,” León said. “The Big Ten is a battle — we knew it was going to be a battle.

The Buckeye battle with their Big Ten opponents will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday against the Huskers, followed by the Hawkeyes at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

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