Columbus, Ohio – The Ohio State (24-6) men’s volleyball team has advanced to the NCAA Championship semifinals, May 5, at Penn State with a 3-1 (22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-17) victory over Loyola-Chicago (21-8) Saturday night in St. John Arena. The tournament championship is OSU’s fourth consecutive tournament title. The NCAA pairings are scheduled to be announced Sunday on ESPNews be 2 and 2:30 p.m. ET.
Named to the All-Tournament team were Mike Bunting and Joseph Smalzer of Loyola-Chicago and Ohio State’s Shawn Sangrey, John Klanac and Jason Tobkin. OSU’s Steven Kehoe was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament.
Set one saw five ties, the last at 16-all. Two OSU errors and a Dainis Berzins solo block gave the Ramblers a 19-16 lead. At 23-20, a Sangrey kill cut the margin to two at 23-21. Loyola-Chicago reached set point with a Steve Thompson kill. OSU stopped the set point at 24-22 with a kill from Tobkin. The Ramblers, with a kill from Bunting, won the set, 25-22, and took a 1-0 lead in the match. Loyola-Chicago hit .429 for the set to .267 for OSU.
In set two, the squads exchanged points with seven ties to reach 11-all. A Rambler error gave OSU a 12-11 lead. The Buckeyes scored the next five points to open a 17-11 lead. The run included a Tobkin kill, a Tobkin-Grayson Overman block and three Rambler errors. A Smalzer kill and an OSU error cut the margin to four at 17-13. A Loyola-Chicago error and a Sangrey kill made the lead, 19-13. Trailing, 20-14, an OSU error and kills from Thompson and Bunting cut the OSU lead to three at 20-17. Kills from Sangrey and Bunting made it 21-18. The score moved to 22-19 with kills from Kevin Heine and Bunting. A Smalzer kill cut the lead to two at 22-20. A Rambler error followed by a kill from Klanac gave Ohio State set point at 24-20. OSU closed out the set at 25-20 with an Overman-Kehoe block to tie the match at one set each. The Buckeyes hit .346 for the set to .222 for Loyola-Chicago.
Ohio State broke a 2-2 set three tie with a five-point run beginning with an Overman kill. Two kills from Kehoe, one from Tobkin and an Overman solo block completed the run to give OSU a 7-2 lead. OSU never trailed from that point. At 17-12, a Heine-Klanac block and an ace serve from Tobkin made the lead seven at 19-12. Leading, 22-15, a Rambler error and a Klanac ace serve made it set point at 24-15. An OSU error stopped the set point at 24-16. A Loyola-Chicago error ended the set at 25-16 to give Ohio State a 2-1 lead in the match. The Buckeyes hit .625 in the set to .125 for Loyola-Chicago.
Set four saw the Ramblers take a 3-0 lead with a Smalzer kill, a Berzins ace serve and an OSU error. Kills from Heine and Smalzer made it 4-1 Ramblers. Kills from Overman and Sangrey cut the lead to one at 4-3. OSU tied the set with an ace serve from Sangrey. A Klanac solo block and his kill gave OSU a 6-4 lead. A Smalzer-Thompson block cut the lead to 6-5. Kills from Overman and Tobkin and a Rambler error made it 9-5, OSU. Leading, 13-9, Rambler kills from Eric Daliege and Bunting made it 13-11. At 15-13, a Klanac kill and a Kehoe-Overman block made the Buckeye lead four at 17-13. OSU used kills from Sangrey, Klanac and Kehoe to make the lead seven at 23-16. A Bunting kill stopped the run at 23-17. Ohio State reached match point at 24-17 on a kill from Klanac. The Buckeyes won the set, 25-17, off a Rambler error to win the match and the MIVA Tournament championship, 3-1.
Ohio State hit .406 for the match to .225 for Loyola. The Buckeyes, in the final three sets hit .431 to .149 for the Ramblers. OSU had a 53-44 advantage in kills and a 52-44 edge in assists. Kehoe posted a match-high 47 assists for the Buckeyes while Mike Hutz recorded 41 for the Ramblers. Ohio State had a 4-2 edge in ace serves with Tobkin posting a match-high two for the Buckeyes. The Ramblers gave up 19 service errors to 18 for Ohio State. Defensively, the Buckeyes had a 30-25 margin in digs with OSU’s Kehoe recording a match-high eight. At the net, Ohio State posted a 12.5 to seven advantage in team blocks. OSU’s Overman collected a match-high eight total blocks with two solos and six assist blocks. Kehoe added six assist blocks for the Buckeyes.
Pete Hanson, Ohio State head coach
On the first game
“I don’t know what is happening with our game one. The other team obviously had a lot to play for and it wasn’t that we play badly, it was just that we didn’t make a couple of plays and once we settled in our serving got stronger. (John) Klanac started to heat up and we featured him a lot the next three games. We rode his back and he carried us and (Shawn) Sangrey started to get warm and it was a big key for us to get No. 6 on track. Once we got some balance in our offense it was lights out and we walked away with it.”
On the upcoming tournament
“The strengths are that we’re in a pretty good mental state of mind. We can deal with some adversity. We just keep playing and we don’t get down. We’re just playing really steady right now. That’s what it’s going to take at that next level when there’s going to be a lot more going on and you just have to be able to relax and keep playing and deal with things. I think the old guys from this team are going to do that okay.”
“It’s about being a veteran and understanding what it is all about. You travel over there and Wednesday you get an hour and a half to practice but you have to do a lot of media stuff and there are all these other distractions. But then on Thursday you just have to focus and get ready to play volleyball. These guys have done that three years in row, so it’s like, ‘been there done that, let’s go out and play volleyball when the whistle blows.’”