G’day mates. I hope everyone has now fully recovered from your Thanksgiving turkey gorging. Thanksgiving was a bit of a challenge here in Sydney as it is an American holiday and while Australians do have turkey for Christmas, stores don’t really get turkeys in until December. I didn’t realize this and thus didn’t get to order a turkey in time. Instead I enjoyed a Thanksgiving evening at the bar and got my poultry dinner with a trip to KFC. I also enjoyed a Thanksgiving picnic put together by the American expat group in a park overlooking the Sydney Opera House and harbour; I am a huge fan of the fact that you can drink alcohol in public parks here. In an ironic twist considering I was at a picnic for an American holiday, I finally felt like I truly did live here as I viewed the Opera House mainly as a place that conveniently had open public restrooms.
Miller and Simon Honored
Not content with having only one night of an award show, the Big Ten extended their football awards announcement to a second night. On Monday the All Big Ten teams and the winners of the position trophies were announced and the results annoyed many OSU fans who felt that several Buckeyes were slighted, as Josh mentioned yesterday. Tuesday’s announcement of the offensive player, defensive player, and coach of the year had to make up for that somewhat as Braxton Miller won the Graham-George Offense Player of the Year trophy while John Simon won the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year trophy. Miller is the fifth OSU player to win offensive player of the year, joining Troy Smith (2006), Joe Germaine (1998), Orlando Pace (1996), and Eddie George (1995). Simon becomes the eighth Buckeye to be named defensive player of the year, joining James Laurinaitis (2007-08), A.J. Hawk (2005), Will Smith (2003), Michael Doss (2002), Shawn Springs (1996), Dan Wilkinson (1993), and Steve Tovar (1992).
Of course Ohio State fans still weren’t entirely happy with the awards announcements as Bill O’Brien won the Hayes-Schembechler and Dave McClain Coach of the Year award. I imagine the voting came down to O’Brien and Meyer and while Urban certainly deserved the award for guiding a team that was 6-6 last year to an undefeated season, O’Brien was just as deserving as he took a PSU team that went 0-4 (they at one point had 9 wins last season) and that had been strongly hurt by defections following the NCAA leveling sanctions on the program. Coach of the Year awards can be tricky to determine and with Big Ten football the award normally goes to the coach of a team that exceeds expectations, as opposed to Big Ten women’s basketball where the award typically goes to the coach of the best team even if they were expected to win the conference. This has tended to hurt Ohio State over the years as the Buckeyes are typically expected to be at the top of the conference. Expectations were lower for this year’s OSU team and any other year I think Meyer would have won the award unanimously. The problem this year was that PSU had even lower expectations after the scandal and sanctions which sapped enthusiasm about the program and led to several key players transferring prior to the start of the season. Ironically the season opening loses to Ohio University and Viriginia may have helped O’Brien’s cause by further lowering expectations for the team and making him look better when the team bounced back from that poor start to have a strong season.
Women’s Volleyball Ends Regular Season
The 14th ranked Ohio State women’s volleyball team wrapped up the regular season this past weekend. The week didn’t get off to a good start as the Buckeyes were swept 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-14) by top ranked Penn State. OSU was never really in the match that the Nittany Lions completely dominated. Senior Mari Hole managed to record 10 kills and 8 digs in what was the best statistical performance by a Buckeye on the night.
On Friday the Buckeyes got involved in the Michigan hate week by hosting the Wolverines in the season finale. Ohio State got off to a slow start, dropping the first set 25-22 but rebounding to take second set 25-23. That was it for the Buckeyes though as the Wolverines took the next two sets, 25-18 and 25-20, to earn the 3-1 match upset. Hole led the Buckeyes with 15 kills and 11 digs for the 17th double-double of the season. Junior Kaitlyn Leary added 14 kills and a career high 8 digs. Sophomore Anna Faul also got into the career high game with 8 kills, she also led both teams with 6 blocks.
This was a very disappointing weekend for OSU and while a loss to PSU was expected, the Buckeyes should have been able to take Michigan. Coming into the weekend OSU was looking at a top 16 seed in the NCAA tournament which would have meant hosting the first two rounds. Instead, the Buckeyes are unseeded (volleyball only seeds the top 16 seeds) and will be spending this coming weekend in Lexington, Kentucky. The 22-10 Buckeyes will open the tournament on Friday afternoon against 20-9 Notre Dame. The winner of that match will take on the winner of host, and 16th seed, Kentucky vs East Tennessee State. OSU looks like they are the equivalent a the 17 seed in the tournament and would likely have played these four teams even if they had beaten Michigan, but the matches would have been in Columbus which would have been a big help.
Big Ten women’s volleyball was very good this year and that showed up in the tournament bracket where Ohio State was joined by XX other Big Ten teams. Penn State was rewarded with the top overall seed, Nebraska got 4th, and Minnesota got the 8th overall seed. Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State also made the tournament, giving the conference 7 teams in the tournament.
Hjelle Earns Weekly Award
Senior goalie Brady Hjelle was named CCHA Goaltender of the Week for his performance in Ohio State men’s hockey’s series against Lake Superior State. Hjelle started in goal on Friday and recorded 31 saves while only allowing one goal as the Buckeyes defeated the Lakers 4-1. Hjelle didn’t start on Saturday, it is pretty common in college hockey to rotate goaltenders during a weekend series, but came on in relief with OSU down 2-0. Hjelle gave up a goal in relief but did come up with 16 saves, unfortunately the OSU offense came up short as the Buckeyes fell 3-2.
Hjelle currently leads the conference, and is third in the NCAA, with a 1.45 goals-against average and a 0.950 save percentage. Hjelle has been even better in CCHA play with a 0.62 goals-against average and a 0.977 save percentage. This is Hjelle second weekly award of the season, he also won it on October 29th.
Women’s Hockey Has Rough Weekend
The 8th ranked OSU women’s hockey team traveled to Princeton this weekend for a non-conference series. On Friday the Buckeye offense struggled for the first two periods of the game and found themselves in a 2-0 hole. OSU turned it on in the third period though and tied the game in the first five minutes of the period before taking the lead midway through the period; an empty net goal sealed the 4-2 win.
Saturday got off to a better start for the Buckeyes as they took a1-0 goal midway through the first. Neither team could score in the second period and then the Tigers tied it up in the opening seconds of the third period. Things looked like they were possibly headed to overtime before Princeton scored with less than four minutes remaining to earn the 2-1 upset.
The weekend split drops Ohio State’s record to 11-5 on the season and knocked them out of the top ten to the ‘also earning votes’ category. The Buckeyes will look to move back into the rankings this weekend as they travel to Mankato, Minnesota to take on Minnesota State in a WCHA conference game.