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Ohio State men’s volleyball seniors strengthen team’s backbone in postseason

Cody Cousino / Asst. multimedia editor

The third-seeded Ohio State men’s volleyball team (24-6, 11-1 MIVA) will face second-seeded Penn State (24-6) at 9 p.m. Thursday in the NCAA Championship semifinals.

Both teams enter the NCAA semifinals after winning their respective conference tournaments.

The Nittany Lions are 15-1 at home this season. Although PSU has home-court advantage, OSU coach Pete Hanson said he’s confident his team will be calm in its road matchup.

“Typically we go there once, sometimes twice, so we’re pretty familiar with it,” Hanson said. “I think it’s going to be a comfortable situation for our guys, and bodes well for our kids.”

Redshirt senior Kevin Heine agreed.

“We have all these seniors on the team that have been there before, and we’re not going to be intimidated by it,” Heine said Saturday.

The Scarlet and Gray faced the Nittany Lions twice this season, and each team won its home match. OSU won, 3-0, in Columbus, and PSU won, 3-1, at Recreation Hall in a match that included a dominating 25-9 win in the fourth and final set.

“All we’re going to ask them to do is be consistent, be who we are and try to play our best volleyball,” Hanson said.

He said the players to watch out for on the Nittany Lions are setter Edgardo Goas, libero Dennis Del Valle and outside hitter Joe Sunder. To counter their attack, Hanson said he needs his team to cut out those players’ supporting cast.

“We know those guys are going to play well,” he said. “We just have to make sure the other guys don’t have great matches.”

Sunder leads PSU in points, with 5.12. Goas averages 11.07 assists per set, and Del Valle leads the team defensively in digs per set, with a 2.66 average and 290 total digs.

“This whole year we have played the best of the best,” redshirt senior John Klanac said Saturday. “We can hang with them, and we’ve beaten a few of them.”

Hanson added that it is important for the team to be steady in the second through fourth sets, as it was against Lewis and Loyola-Chicago in the MIVA Tournament.

Southern California and California-Santa Barbara play their semifinal match at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Either one of those teams is going to be a big challenge for us,” Hanson said.

The semifinal winners will face off for the national championship at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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