Knotted up at 22-22 in the third set, it looked like Ohio State was going to be able to muster out a set and make it a close match.
Then the Nittany Lions showed why they are the No. 1 team in the country.
A kill by sophomore outside hitter Nia Grant put the Lions (19-1, 9-0 Big Ten) up 23-22 and on serve. Maddie Martin stepped up the service line, took a deep breath, bounced the rock a few times, and set the ball sailing over the net.
Service ace. The Lions were on double match point and Martin went back to do it again.
This time her serve presented the No. 20 Buckeyes with more problems and the ball deflected off of a few white jerseys and hit the floor.
The Lions won the match 3-0 and remained unbeaten both in conference play and on the road. For the second straight match, Martin had made an impact and came up big for the Lions in a crucial spot in the match.
“I know [coach] counts on me a lot to come in and try to help the team out in the first place,” the junior outside hitter Martin said. “Every time I go in I try to make them better and help out anyway that I can.”
Martin finished the match with two of the Lions four service aces — the only Lion player to record more than one. She also finished with one kill and one dig.
Junior teammates Katie Slay and Ariel Scott led the way for the Lions, as they both generated 14 kills. Combined the duo had one less kill than the Buckeyes offense and they helped to improve the squad’s win streak to 13.
Scott finished with a .500 hitting percentage, while Slay ended the match with a .737 clip. The team attributed their overall .342 hitting percentage to their ability to work the ball around, communicate, and create open opportunities.
“I think we were doing a pretty good job of getting passes and then Micha [Hancok] did a great job of setting the ball high,” Slay said. “The back row players were doing a great job of calling shots, so it was a good team effort.”
The 25-21, 25-19, 25-22 victory marked the fourteenth time this season that the Lions have swept their opponents. It was also the squad’s seventh victory over ranked opposition — three of which came on the road.
Next up for the Lions on their four-match road trip is a Saturday night clash in Ann Arbor with Michigan. The squad will look to continue their winning ways and continue to inch closer to a Big Ten crown.
“I think we need to show that we can win on the road, it’s very important when we’re looking at the long term goals of this team,” the sophomore setter Hancock said. “We need to focus more on what we can do in someone else’s gym and that’s what we’re going to try to show people over the next week.”