Revenge? It's on the mind of the Ohio State volleyball team as Purdue comes to town

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State opposite hitter Emily Londot (22), middle blocker Rylee Rader (20) and outside hitter Gabby Gonzales (8) haven't lost a set in four straight matches.

There are plenty of ways to look at No. 7 Ohio State’s rematch with No. 6 Purdue on Friday night, but one word comes to mind.

“We talk a lot about obviously it’s a revenge match,” Buckeyes women's volleyball coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg said. “I want it.”

The challenge in front of what should be a raucous Covelli Center is channeling that emotion in the right way. After jumping out to a 10-0 record and climbing to No. 3 in the national polls, the Buckeyes went to No. 7 Purdue for a September 24 showdown. A sold-out crowd of 2,288 Boilermakers fans watched the home team knock off Ohio State in five sets, sending the visitors into what would become a mini spiral.

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For second-year middle blocker Rylee Ryder, it was the first time she’d experienced a full college arena cheering against her team after a delayed 2020 season was ultimately played in 2021 in empty stadiums.

The first true Big Ten road game experience left an impression on the Louisville native.

“They have one of the loudest arenas in the Big Ten, even though it’s really small, so that shook us up a little bit because we weren’t used to the fans compared to last year,” she said. “I think we were shaken up when we played Purdue, but once we started playing at home and getting in front of our fans, they give us a lot of confidence.”

But before returning home, Ohio State had a match in which the Buckeyes lost in straight sets at No. 20 Penn State. From that point, the season could have gone in one of two directions. When they returned to practice after a day off, Ryder said it didn’t take long to see how Ohio State would respond.

“We easily could’ve went our separate ways and dug a hole for ourselves, but we responded really well by coming into practice and making it known that we want to get better every practice, whether it’s building relationships throughout the team or getting through a really hard drill,” she said.

In the four games since, the Buckeyes haven’t lost a set while blowing past Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State and, most recently, Michigan. Their win last Sunday was in front of a Covelli Center record crowd of 4,098 and came against a Michigan team that had just won at No. 8 Minnesota days before.

Along the way, Oldenburg said the Buckeyes have gotten back to playing with confidence and taking big swings.

“I think we got tentative and a little bit scared (against Purdue),” the coach said. “In practice, it was about creating opportunities for them to just go swing and not hope for the best, but (if we lose) we’re going out swinging. We’re going to be the aggressors and not be tentative from an offensive standpoint.”

That has paid recent dividends. The hope is that it can also help break a streak that extends back to 2017: Ohio State has lost seven straight to the Boilermakers. Fifth-year senior Hannah Gruensfelder is the only remaining member from the unranked team that upset No. 13 Purdue, 3-1, on the road that season.

Ohio State defensive specialist Kylie Murr and her teammates have been ranked as high as No. 3 in the country this season. They currently sit in seventh place and host No. 6 Purdue Friday.

Oldenburg has reviewed their meeting from this year and knows what her team is capable of.

“Looking back and watching video I’m going, ‘Oh man, if we play well we can do a number on Purdue,’ ” she said. “Now, they’re a good team, a great team, but if we play the way I know we’re capable of playing, I know that would be a different outcome, even in a hostile environment.

“The fact that we’re 0-7 against them, it makes me so mad, but I can’t control that. I feel like our mentality is in a great place. We're excited for this opportunity.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy

Ohio State outside hitter Adria Powell (16) and middle blocker Reilly MacNeill (4) hold defensive specialist Sarah Morbitzer (1) while setter Josie Vondran (4) limbos under Morbitzer during a break in OSU's win over Michigan, the Buckeyes fourth straight victory.

More OSU women's volleyball

Ohio State women's volleyball photo page, in Sunday's Dispatch