The question going into this Ohio State women’s volleyball season was whether they’d be able to build upon the momentum of last year’s big breakout season, which started with a 12-0 run.
Based on their season-opening performance this past weekend, it appears they’re poised to do just that (For what it’s worth, I predicted these Buckeyes would have a record-breaking season this year, and so far, they have not disappointed).
The Buckeyes smashed their way into the No. 6 spot in the NCAA Power Rankings, moving up five spots from their previous ranking of No. 11, coming off an undefeated weekend that included a huge upset over the No. 4 Washington Huskies.
After defeating Northern Kentucky in three sets (25-10, 25-18, 25-14), it was the matchup against the Huskies that really set the tone for the season to come. After dropping the first set, 23-25, the Buckeyes rallied to win the next three (25-19, 25-22, 25-18) in their standout performance.
It was an exclamatory start to a season the Buckeyes are hoping will end with some championship wins - they’re here to play with the big kids, and their opponents better be ready.
Opposite hitter Emily Londot, last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is looking to build on her accomplishments from 2020. She led all hitters in the match against Washington with 19 kills, followed closely by senior outside hitter Mia Grunze who recorded 18.
The Buckeyes were also dominant in serve-receive and back row defense, thanks especially to a stellar performance from defensive specialist Kylie Murr who recorded some spectacular digs.
That they’re talented doesn’t mean it will be an easy journey, however. Their road to the tournament must go through some really challenging conference opponents, including an away matchup against No. 2 Wisconsin on October 22 and a Nebraska team that looks to be dominant despite still having a few key players out.
Though they dominated at the net against Northern Kentucky, their blocking didn’t really go off until the third set against the Huskies, and they’ll need to get that going earlier in the match if they want to stop Wisconsin’s offense.
Look to freshman Arica Davis, the Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week, who was a huge force at the net in her collegiate debut, to help them do just that. She started her collegiate career by tying the program record for single-match blocks (13) and set the record for single-match block assists (12) in the opening match against Northern Kentucky.
They’ll also need to avoid service errors like the ones in the first set against Washington. But this early in the season, these fixes are entirely manageable.
This group of Buckeyes has shown this weekend that they are not a team to overlook. They of course have the tangible skills needed for a successful season, but what really makes them special is the intangibles — they’re having fun on the court and it shows. The key for OSU will be consistency - if they can play at the level they did this past weekend and continue to build upon that, they should be dominant throughout the season.
Their team chemistry is something special, and they’re in great hands with head coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg, who has done a great job of getting buy-in from everyone in the program. This group is only going to get better as the season goes on because they enjoy what they’re doing and they’re hungry for growth.
Ohio State women’s volleyball continues their quest toward a championship season this Friday against Rhode Island in Lubbock, Texas. Conference play opens against Purdue in West Lafayette on Friday, Sept. 24.