G’day hive readers and happy Halloween. While Halloween isn’t as popular here in Australia as it is in the States, it is celebrated and growing in popularity. It has been comforting seeing a few stores and houses, as well as the US Consulate, decorated in fake cobwebs and spiders, though with it being Australia I cannot be 100% sure that the spiders were fake and was not willing to get close enough to investigate more carefully. Unfortunately the stores here do not have candy on sale to the same extent as stores in the US, thus I will not be partaking in my annual day-after-Halloween candy stock-up.
The Big Ten held its annual women’s basketball media days last week and as Michael previously mentioned, senior guard Tayler Hill was named preseason co-player of the year and the media picked Ohio State to finish 3rd in the conference. As part of media day coach Jim Foster sat down with reporters to answer questions. Foster normally seems pretty serious and dry when you see him but as someone who has been in press conferences with him, he actually does have a sense of humor that he will display at times and it made several appearances on media day as he started off his turn in front of the press by joking about his famous lack of concern about preseason awards. Most of the questions naturally focused on how the team would deal with the loss of Samantha Prahalis and while Foster acknowledged that losing Sammy would hurt, he seemed optomistic that the team would be able to adapt this season.
Foster was very happy with how the first three weeks of practice has gone. He credited seniors Tayler Hill, Amber Stokes, and Emilee Harmon for helping to get the team prepared over the summer so that they were ready to go when the coaches were finally able to work with them. It is very nice to hear that three leaders are stepping up on the team and helping the younger players along, this bodes well for later in the season when leadership is needed as the games get more important. In other good news, Foster said that Martina Ellerbe, Emilee Harmon, and Amy Scullion are all healthy for pretty much their fist time at Ohio State. This is very good news as the Buckeyes have to deal with the setback of losing sophomore forward Kalpana Beach to a knee injury suffered in practice.
Perhaps my favorite comment in the press conference came in response to a question about UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s off-season comments that the NCAA should make changes to women’s basketball such as lowering the rim of the basket, using a bigger ball, and shortening the shot clock. Foster responded, saying ” I really don’t think about that stuff. Geno has got a team that allows him to have escapist moments, and the rest of us are spending a lot of time trying to get our team better”, simultaneously showing a bit of humor and his focus on making Ohio State better.
The preseason AP women’s basketball poll was released over the weekend and Ohio State was ranked at 19th heading into the season. Overall the Big Ten had four teams in the top 25, tying the conference third, as the Buckeyes were joined by Penn State at 8th, Nebraska at 18th, and Purdue at 21st. Michigan, Iowa, and Michigan State all made the ‘also receiving votes’ list. After year’s of being derided as a weak conference by most women’s basketball fans, early appearances suggest that the Big Ten will be much better this year. While I do like to take pride in the conference and see most of it do well, I have come to hate Purdue women’s basketball too much to ever cheer for them, I have a more practical reason to be happy about the Big Ten appearing to get better. The weak Big Ten has often been blamed for not properly preparing Ohio State to face tougher competition in the NCAA tournament. Facing a more grueling conference schedule will get the Buckeyes more experience with facing tough competition and needing to be up and focused for every game; I think the Big Ten being weaker in the past led to some bad habits due to OSU’s ability to still win despite not always playing very well.
Huge Weekend for Women’s Volleyball
The Big Ten women’s volleyball conference schedule is 20 games long so each team plays 9 conference opponents twice and two conference opponents only once. In an feat of incredibly creative scheduling the second half of the conference season for each team is the exact same as the first half, with the locations of the games reversed and the opponents that are only played once swapped for each other. This week marked the start of the second half of the conference season and Ohio State hit the road, traveling to 4th ranked Nebraska and Iowa. When the Buckeyes met these two teams at the start of the conference season in Columbus, the Buckeyes swept the Hawkeyes 3-0 but fell to the Cornhuskers 3-1.
Friday saw OSU visiting Lincoln to take on a 4th ranked Nebraska squad that had only lost twice all season. The Buckeyes got off to a good start, leading most of the first set on the way to a 25-21 win. Nebraska led most of the second set and had a 22-18 lead late in the set but Ohio State battled back to tie the match before taking the set 26-24. After the intermission the Cornhuskers came out fired up as they easily took the third set 25-19. The Buckeyes weren’t fazed by the Cornhuskers as they won the fourth set 25-23 to pull off the 3-1 upset, giving the Buckeyes their first win over Nebraska since 1991. Seniors Mari Hole, Emily Danks, Mariah Booth, and junior Kaitlyn Leary all recorded double-digit kills in the match. Senior Amanda Peterson earned a double-double with 46 assists and 16 digs, Danks also earned a double-double with 12 digs to go along with her 10 kills. Freshman Andrea Kacsits continued her impressive rookie year by recording 6 blocks.
On Saturday Ohio State visited an Iowa team that was in last place in the conference and thus it wouldn’t have been surprising if the Buckeyes were still celebrating their big upset from the night before. That wasn’t the case though as OSU easily recorded a road win, sweeping the Hawkeyes 3-0 (25-17, 26-24, 25-12). Senior Amanda Peterson recorded her second straight double-double with 46 assists and 11 digs.
This was a huge weekend for the Buckeyes, highlighted by their big road upset of the 4th ranked Cornhuskers. This wasn’t a narrow upset where OSU held on and pulled it out in the end, rather the Buckeyes controlled most of the match as the put on perhaps their best performance of the season. While they must have been thrilled about their huge win the night before, the Buckeyes showed no sign of it on Saturday as they easily took care of business. The pollsters also were impressed by the Buckeyes, moving them up to 15th in the rankings. The Big Ten also took notice of OSU’s play, naming senior Amanda Peterson the Big Ten Setter of the Week, the first such honor of her career.
It is important to resist the temptation to read too much into this weekend but it is certainly a good sign going forward. We will learn a lot this weekend as the Buckeyes return home to face #10 Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes won in Madison 3-1 back at the beginning of October but they will be looking for revenge against the Golden Gophers who swept the Buckeyes previously.
Women’s Hockey Looks to Rebound
A week after being swept by top ranked Minnesota, the 10th ranked Ohio State women’s hockey team looked to get back on track as they hosted Bemidji State. Friday’s game got off to a slow start as neither team could score in the first period but that quickly changed after the first intermission as a span of just seven minutes and forty-one seconds saw OSU find the back of the net four times to take a 4-0 lead on the way to a 4-1 win.
Saturday’s game got off to a much faster start as Ohio State recorded three first period goals. The Buckeyes didn’t stop there though as they added another five goals in the second period and two more in the third as they skated to a 10-1 victory, setting a program record for goals in one game in the process. Despite the large number of goals, only one Buckeye scored more than one goal. Senior forward Taylor Kuehl earned a hat trick with three goals, she also recorded an assist to finish the game with four points.
The wins this weekend snapped Ohio State’s three game losing streak and saw them get back on track both offensively and defensively after being outscored 17-2 during their losing streak. OSU will look to keep the winning streak going this weekend as they travel to St. Cloud, Minnesota for a series against St. Cloud State.
Roby Getting Some Attention
Sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby was named a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award this week; the Thorpe is given to the nation’s best defensive back each year. Roby is one of only two sophomores on the 15 person list, and the only player from the Big Ten. Roby earned his way onto the list with his excellent pass defense which has been highlighted by 2 interceptions and 16 pass break-ups, the most in the nation. Award finalists will be named on November 19th and the winner will be announced on December 6th.