Ohio State women’s volleyball seeking history entering Louisville regional of NCAA tournament

Jacob Myers
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State is hoping to reach its first volleyball regional final since 2004.

The regional semifinals have been the boogeyman for the Ohio State women’s volleyball team. 

Since 2004, the last time the Buckeyes reached the regional finals of the NCAA tournament, they have reached seven “Sweet 16s” and lost all of them. In each of those games, Ohio State was the lower seeded team, as will be coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg’s squad at 3 p.m. Thursday against No. 8 Georgia Tech in Louisville, Kentucky. 

This time, with nearly the entire team back from last season’s regional semifinal loss to No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Ohio State feels more prepared mentally to become one game closer to, and one game away from the national semifinals at Nationwide Arena. 

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"I think the experience helps and just the understanding of what this means and how tough this match is, the sweet 16 match is for everybody,” Flynn Oldenburg said. “I'm excited to see what happens Thursday because I think they're more ready than they were last year." 

Hannah Gruensfelder and her teammates are hoping to get Ohio State to the regional final for the first time since 2004.

Ohio State knocked off Howard in three sets and Tennessee in four sets last weekend at the Covelli Center to advance to the Louisville regional with the Yellow Jackets, No. 16 Florida and No. 1 seed Louisville. The coach whose team advances to the final four will have a chance to become the first female head coach in NCAA Division I women’s volleyball history to win a national championship. 

If Ohio State beats Georgia Tech, the Buckeyes will play the winner of Louisville vs. Florida at 6 p.m. Saturday. 

It took a while for the Buckeyes to find their groove in the second round against Tennessee. The fourth set was within one point late in the set before Ohio State pulled away. Flynn Oldenburg said the discussion this week has been about how her team can get to that point sooner, rather than waiting until things get tense to play their best. 

Sophomore outside hitter Emily Londot said success in the rest of the tournament will be predicated on the Buckeyes playing loose and free. 

"When we focus on our side is when we really play our best,” Londot said. “No matter who's on the other side of the court, we just have to focus on us and believe in ourselves and we can do it." 

Georgia Tech (25-5, 14-4 ACC) is making its third regional semifinal appearance and first since 2004, after sweeping The Citadel and Western Kentucky to reach regionals. The Yellow Jackets have ACC Player of the Year Julia Bergmann and first-team all-ACC right-side hitter Mariana Brambilla, with first-team all-ACC player Matti McKissock setting them. 

Flynn Oldenburg said they can swing with the best teams in the country, but believes the Ohio State block can get them off their game.  

“They rely a lot on their emotion, which is good and bad. When things are good, they're rolling ... but I also think we can use that to our advantage,” she said. “I think our defense, our block, can frustrate them a little bit. And if we get into long rallies, I feel good about our chances just because I feel like that's going to take the emotion out of them.” 

To advance, Flynn Oldenburg said middle blockers Rylee Rader and Arica Davis will be key because it’ll open up Gabby Gonzales and Londot on the pins. After tasting defeat at this stage in the spring, bowing out of the tournament now is far from the minds of the Buckeyes. 

"I think we saw what we could do last year and we just wanted to set those big goals," Londot said. “We're all so confident in each other that I think we all believe we can go as far as we can.”

jmyers@dispatch.com

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Ohio State vs. Georgia Tech