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Men’s volleyball: Top-ranked Buckeyes stunned by No. 6 UC Irvine, win streak ended at 42

Then-junior opposite hitter Miles Johnson (13) warms up a spike before a game in January of 2016. Credit: Lantern file photo

The No. 6 University of California, Irvine (15-6, 9-5 MPSF) swept the top-ranked Ohio State men’s volleyball team (19-1, 8-0 MIVA) in straight sets on Saturday in St. John Arena, ending OSU’s historic 42-match win streak.

The win for the UC Irvine Anteaters marks its first in Columbus, during their first visit. With the Buckeye streak set at 42, the 47-match NCAA record set by the University of California, Los Angeles still stands.

“Irvine is a very good team,” OSU head coach Pete Hanson said. “They were highly motivated, played extremely well. They were very, very consistent in every phase of the game.”

Two separate four-point runs gave the Buckeyes the lead at 16-10 midway through the first set. The Anteaters went on a four-point run of their own to tie the score up at 17. Four straight service errors and a net violation put the nail in the coffin for the Buckeyes, as the Anteaters took the first set 28-26.

Despite stuffing the Anteaters on four separate occasions, the Buckeyes gave away five points in service errors alone. On the other hand, junior outside hitter Reid Dominguez was the sole Anteater to commit a serving error in the first frame.

“Maybe that was just the pressure of the moment that we just couldn’t execute those serves,” Hanson said. “I just think we were trying to do too much. I think we were trying to make uncharacteristic types of plays that you don’t need to make at that point in time.”

The second set began with three major swings in momentum, with the last one in favor of the Anteaters to put them up 11-8. UC Irvine maintained the lead, going on to win the set 25-19.

Another six points were gifted to the Anteaters by way of six service errors from the Buckeyes. The Anteaters defense also held the Buckeyes’ attacking regime to a rate of .156. For the first time this season, the Buckeyes headed into intermission down 2-0.

“I think their service pressure was kind of throwing us out of rhythm,” redshirt senior middle blocker Driss Guessous said. “Our passing was definitely suffering because they were just hitting the ball very hard.”

After being down throughout the whole third set, the Buckeyes went on a four-point run to tie the score at 9. The Anteaters took 10 of the next 12 points to take the lead 19-11. OSU’s late set serge was not enough to fend of the Anteaters, with UC Irvine taking the last set of 25-20.

The Anteater’s defense was too much for the Buckeyes, tallying 12 digs and two blocks in the final frame. Senior opposite hitter Miles Johnson posted only five kills on 12 attempts in the third.

“I would rather get the loss now than at the end of the season,” Guessous said. “I think it’s almost important to lose one because it relieves some pressure, but it shows that we have a lot to work on.”

In the 42-win streak, OSU won 18 matches against opponents ranked in the top 12. The last time the Buckeyes lost was Feb. 6, 2016 against Ball State.

“We still have a lot to play for,” Hanson said. “I think the message is learn from it. Don’t let it get you down and move on and let’s get ready for the next opponent.”

After the first loss of the season, the Buckeyes will look to bounce back against No. 10 Loyola University on Thursday at 8 p.m.

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