From the first serve of the match on Saturday, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team was in control. The Buckeyes handed the Michigan State Spartans a loss after a show-stopping performance at St. John Arena.
No. 19 OSU outplayed the No. 11 Spartans in every category. The team’s dominance led to the Buckeyes dealing Michigan State a 3-0 sweep (25-21, 25-19, 25-19).
Just two weeks ago, it was the Buckeyes who were scratching their heads after the Spartans swept them in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State was on a two-match winning streak prior to Saturday, which included a impressive upset over No. 3 Minnesota. The win boosts OSU to 14-8 on the season.
OSU coach Geoff Carlston said his team was playing with the fire to show everyone what Ohio State volleyball stands for.
“They beat us pretty handily at their place, so (I told them) this is really about ‘defending the jersey,” he said.
OSU was able to rally back from a handful of small deficits in the first set and went on a five-point run to take the late advantage, 22-19. A monstrous kill from senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe on set point sent the Buckeyes to a 1-0 lead.
A Michigan State 3-0 lead to start out the second set would be squandered quickly by an OSU 4-0 run. The Buckeyes would fall behind again, but were brought back to life by aggressive attacking from junior outside hitter Luisa Schirmer and company. OSU delivered nine unanswered points to close out the second set, 25-19.
With two sets to their advantage, the Buckeyes maintained steady control in the third, holding onto the lead the entire set. A solo block on match point by sophomore setter Taylor Hughes put the lid on the team’s stunning performance.
Schirmer led the Buckeyes with 13 kills, followed by Sandbothe with 12. Both junior outside hitter Ashley Wenz and Hughes had attacking percentages over .500. Hughes also chipped in 37 assists.
With such a stark contrast in results from the first matchup two weeks ago, Carlston said one of the major differences in his team Saturday was determination to avenge its last loss to the Spartans.
“It’s kind of nice to play only a couple weeks later so you can really lock in on, ‘Hey, this was only two weeks ago, you kind of got it (a loss) handed to you,’” he said. “’What are you going to do about it?’”
Senior libero Valeria León added that OSU had a steady handle on every aspect of play, which allowed the team to keep its composure.
“We had more control of the tempo of the game,” she said. “We wanted to out-dig them and out-block them … trusting in the game plan and trusting in each other, I think that’s what helped us get that ‘W’.”
Not only was León a major contributor to the Buckeyes’ victory against the Spartans (14 digs), she also solidified her own place in OSU history.
In front of nearly 2,600 fans on her home court, León reached the top spot for most career digs in the program. León said she couldn’t have imagined being in this position four years ago, but felt very honored to make her mark.
“When you first sign and you come here, you don’t think about breaking records,” she said. “but it’s really cool to leave my name and leave my legacy.”
León has been flirting with the record for a few weeks now. After OSU’s game at Penn State on Wednesday, she stood within one dig of the title.
León said people have been joking with her saying she purposely played it out so she could reach the achievement at St. John Arena.
“People would think that I planned on doing that, but I didn’t,” she laughed. “It was definitely special breaking that record at St. John, because I’ve been playing in front of those fans since freshman year.”
Carlston said León’s four-year journey has been incredible for him to watch and to take part in as her coach.
“It’s why you coach in a lot of ways,” he said. “To see her grow from her freshman year to this year and to get that record, that’s a big deal.”
With a little less than half of the season left, León has the potential to blow the top off of the career digs record and create a new goal for future players to strive for.
The Buckeyes will be back in action on Wednesday when they take on the Maryland Terrapins at 6 p.m. in College Park, Maryland.