(Photo courtesy of http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com)

The Nation’s 20th ranked Women’s Volleyball squad, The Ohio State University, dropped their home opener in Columbus on Friday, September 1st against the Bears of Missouri State – in four sets (25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 25-20). It was the first up for the Buckeyes in three of a round-robin in the ‘Sports Imports D.C. Koehl Classic’.

Focusing on this match – thirteen players for the Buckeyes saw action in multiple sets. The need for the right match-up to stage a comeback did not transpire. A mild threat occurred in the third for the Buckeyes, before the Bears “simply” closed out the evening

Junior classmates Audra Appold and Taylor Hughes each posted double-doubles. Appold did so with a team-high 15 kills along with 14 digs. Hughes recorded 43 assists and 12 digs. Appold also led the Buckeyes by attacking .382 (15-2-34).

Freshmen Hannah Gruensfelder and Lauren Witte (both names we shall see more of as the season progresses) maintained their impressive numbers into the second weekend of the young season – which also was their fourth consecutive start. Gruensfelder averaged 4.5 digs per set and Witte dropped in eight kills at a .273 hitting rate to go along with four blocks. Fellow freshman Ayanna Swan received serious play-time – finishing with seven kills.

Set 1: Missouri State completely owned this set – swinging an impressive .424 on 15 kills and pulling away after breaking up a 7-7 tie the early stages of the match.

Set 2: Despite dominating in every statistical category across the box score (four to one), Ohio State came out on the wrong end of a 25-21 second stanza. Luisa Schirmer terminated seven of 13 error-free attempts in a valiant individual effort.

Set 3: Appold and Smeathers assumed the roles of the leaders offensively lifting the Buckeyes up in the third, combining for 13 kills and a lone error on 19 attacks. Ohio State hit .548, yet struggled to shake the pesky Bears until late in the period. The Buckeyes trailed 17-16 when an MSU service error cut down what would be the Bears’ final edge set. Ohio State seized eight of the next 12 tallies to extend the contest into a fourth set on the strength of a 25-21 triumph.

Set 4: The momentum disappeared, however, come this set – by a 10-3 bombshell for Missouri State to start it off. The Buckeyes then responded nicely and tightened the gap to 10-7 on four consecutive points. Following a Bears timeout, Missouri State moved their lead to five points at 12-7. That margin would remain until the match’s conclusion, 25-20.

The Buckeyes did pick up a pair of wins Saturday (Sept. 2) at St. John Arena to improve to 4-2 on the young season. The Buckeyes started the day by getting past Oakland (3-3) in four sets (25-14, 19-25, 25-19, 25-23) before storming past Lipscomb (4-2) in straight sets (25-19, 27-25, 25-15).

Missouri State won the champions trophy of the 2017 Sports Imports D.C. Koehl classic based on a ‘most sets won’ tiebreaker with Lipscomb and Ohio State. All three squads posted match records of 2-1 while Oakland came in at 0-3.

Junior classmates Audra Appold and Taylor Hughes were named to the all-tournament team. Appold racked up 49 points over the weekend, attacking .388 on 46 kills. Hughes did a little bit of everything, stuffing the stat sheet with per set averages of 10.91 assists, 3.45 digs, 1.73 kills and .91 blocks while swinging .472 (19-2-36).

Lauren Witte and Ashley Wenz both hit .340 or better and averaged 1.73 and 1.00 blocks per set. Madison Smeathers proved tough to get past up front as well, getting in on 13 total blocks (1.18/set).

Three players posted double-digit kills against Oakland (Appold 13, Schirmer 10, Wenz 13) and three did the same for digs (Hughes 16, Gruensfelder 15, Schirmer 13). Despite a 25-19 blip in the second set, Ohio State out-scored the Golden Grizzlies by 13 points overall.

The Ohio State University ventures south next weekend (Sept. 8-9), competing in the Coastal Carolina Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Buckeyes are slated to face the host Coastal Carolina, Notre Dame and FIU. It’ll indeed be a grand time as this young team expands their muscles in a season I feel will be better than what has been projected.

Look for the Buckeyes to do great in this tournament. See you there!

Go Buckeyes.