When the No. 13 Ohio State men’s volleyball team first faced No. 7 Penn State earlier this season in Hawaii, it turned from a luau into a nightmare.
The Buckeyes are seeking revenge as they welcome the Nittany Lions into St. John Arena tonight.
Ohio State (10-6, 5-1) steps away from conference play as they face what coach Pete Hanson calls one of their toughest opponents of the season.
“Penn State is a very good team,” Hanson said. “They have several outstanding players including four All-Americans. This is a big challenge for our guys.”
Senior Ted Schoenfeldt said he also recognizes the talent that Penn States has on its roster.
“Penn State has always had a very strong volleyball program, and this year they continue to be a big physical team,” Schoenfeldt said. “They have a lot of talented athletes on their roster, and have several guys who can be a threat both attacking and from the end line.”
The Buckeyes are going to have to elevate their game if they want to avoid a repeat of their earlier season matchup. OSU was dominated in all aspects of the match, falling 3-1 (30-16, 30-27, 24-30, 30-25).
“We need to match their physicality,” junior John Klanac said. “Working on first-swing kills and transition offense is a must when you play a team like this.”
“We are preparing to serve Penn State hard to try to drive them out of system as much as possible,” Schoenfeldt said. “By forcing them into bad pass situations, it will make it much easier for us to deal with their offense and gang up on guys with our block.”
Ohio State has the luxury of facing the Nittany Lions in St. John Arena, where the Buckeyes are undefeated and have yet to drop a set.
“It always helps [playing at home],” Hanson said. “Our guys feel really good playing at home and it allows them to relax and be comfortable.”
Having those familiar faces supporting the Buckeyes was something lacking in Hawaii, but Schoenfeldt said the fans really helps the team “get pumped to win big games.”
While Penn State is a marquee opponent, it has no effect on the Buckeyes in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball conference standings. However, facing an elite opponent may resonate on OSU in upcoming MIVA play.
“Being able to play against a high caliber Penn State team will allow us to hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to playing teams that we come into knowing that we’re the better team,” Schoenfeldt said.
Hanson sees this matchup as a measuring stick to see how far the Buckeyes have come this season.
“This is a very good match to play to keep working on things and helping our guys improve and get better for the later matches we will have with the MIVA opponents,” Hanson said.
OSU will meet the Nittany Lions at least one more time this season with a match at Happy Valley, but they could also face Penn State in the NCAA Semifinals or championship if both teams win their conferences.
“Playing a good team like this, there never is really a dull moment,” Klanac said.