The No. 13 Ohio State men’s volleyball team has quietly been one of the university’s most successful athletic programs for the past two seasons.
The Buckeyes have won consecutive Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association conference titles and have reached the NCAA semifinals in both seasons.
Now, they are out to prove to the rest of the country that they are ready to make that leap to the next level and contend for a National Championship.
How does one describe a team like this?
“Hungry,” said coach Pete Hanson, who is entering his 26th season with the Buckeyes.
Senior captain Ted Schoenfeldt shared similar sentiments.
“The past two years we’ve ended our season one match away from a National
Championship, and being so close has increased our desire to bring home the title even more,” Schoenfeldt said. “We are hungry to win and take our season one step further than the past two years.”
Last season, Ohio State finished 16-11, but had an impressive 9-1 mark in MIVA play en route to an NCAA semifinal appearance.
This year’s squad may have the potential to be even better, Hanson said.
“We have better depth and more competition at the outside hitter positions,” he said.
OSU had an early opportunity to take on several national contenders early in the Outriggers Hotels Invitational in Hawaii last week. OSU went up against perennial favorites such as Penn State and USC, but ultimately fell to both squads.
The Buckeyes were far from discouraged with their play, despite the outcome of the matches.
“Playing such tough teams early in the season like that was definitely a wake up call,” junior John Klanac said. “These are the top teams in the country and this is where we need to be down the road. We definitely made some strides in that week in Hawaii. … We hung with the best of them. “
Schoenfeldt saw it as an opportunity to prepare for upcoming conference play.
“I think we realized our full potential, because there were streaks throughout the matches against the top teams where we looked like the dominant team,” Schoenfeldt said. “Coming away from those tough matches, we enter MIVA play with a confidence and a good idea of what we need to do to win matches.”
Hanson said he was looking to some of his seasoned veterans to be the foundation of this year’s team.
“Steve Kehoe, Kevin Heine, Ted Schoenfeldt and John Klanac are our leaders,” Hanson said. “These four guys played the most of any of our returning guys and have performed at the highest levels for us in seasons before. “
Hanson added that a few younger players would need to contribute in order for OSU to reach its goals.
“I think (sophomore) Mik Berzins is going to have a breakout year along with (freshman) Grayson Overman,” Hanson said. “They will be two of our younger guys who will be really good as the season goes along.”
With all the elements in place to have another successful season, Klanac does not feel overwhelmed by raised expectations.
“I’ve tried to use every year as [a] building block into the next, so I don’t think there is any pressure to do so but more confidence,” Klanac said. “Now that we’re older and we’ve been to two Final Fours before, our expectations are no longer just getting there, but really going for it and taking it.”