Ohio State volleyball explains why five players from Elite 8 team are transferring
Ohio State women's volleyball advanced to the Elite 8 this year, its first trip to the regional final since 2004.
Soon after the Buckeyes lost to the eventual champion Texas (25-18, 21-25, 25-13, 25-21), five OSU players – all seniors – entered the transfer portal.
That included All-American setter Mac Podraza and All-American libero Kylie Murr. Outside hitters Gabby Gonzales and Jenaisya Moore would be leaving, as would Adria Powell, who has now set a course for Clemson.
It was enough to raise eyebrows.
Why would such highly regarded athletes leave a top-ten program coming off its most successful season in years?
Even those who follow the sport closely, like Lee Feinswog of VolleyballMag.com, had questions. Endeavoring to get answers, Feinswog invited Podraza to join him for a video chat.
For those speculating the worst, it might have been a surprise to see Ohio State coach Jen Flynn Oldenberg was also a guest.
"I have nothing but love and respect for Ohio State," Podraza started out. "I never grew up a Buckeye. I never thought I would end up being a Buckeye. But I could not be happier that I am a Buckeye, and I will always be a Buckeye.
"I think it came down to the fact that I came with these girls, and now four years are up, and it's time for me to leave with these girls. The scholarship money just isn't there."
Basically, the Buckeye seniors were caught in a roster crunch caused by the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to athletes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but ending an amnesty for programs over scholarship limits after this season.
Podraza admitted that with five incoming freshmen, Ohio State was put in an "awkward and weird situation."
"It's just how COVID ended up making it go," she said.
Oldenberg met with each of the seniors after the NCAA tournament, and there were tears in every meeting as she explained the situation, and why she felt this was the way things had play out.
"If I make a choice to keep all five on my roster, on scholarship, then I'm telling incoming freshman or players in my program, 'Hey, sorry. Not yours anymore,' " she said. "You can do that, and I had a choice to do that, and I chose not to do that – not because I don't want these five. I want them forever."
Podraza responded by vowing to come back someday, telling Oldenberg, "This will not be the last time I cry in your office."
The answer didn't surprise Oldenberg who feels that the departing players have "set us on a path for more" success down the line and are contributing to their legacy by leaving in such a classy and mature way, including all the players graduating by this spring – Podraza, Murr and Gonzales with masters degrees.
Podraza is unsure of her next destination. She did know this much, however: "I'm taking my Buckeye roots wherever I go next."