Cody Cousino / Asst. multimedia editor
Five years ago, five Ohio State men’s volleyball players strolled through campus for the first time as students.
Now, five years later, four of those players are starters on the team and have greatly affected program.
For the fourth straight season, the team has advanced to the NCAA Championship semifinals. The Buckeyes (24-6, 11-1) defeated Loyola-Chicago, 3-1 (22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-17), Saturday to win the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament. OSU has won the tournament two consecutive years, each time with a win against the Ramblers in the finals.
Redshirt senior John Klanac and junior Shawn Sangrey led OSU offensively with 18 and 17.5 points, respectively. Both had 16 kills, and redshirt senior Steven Kehoe added a match-high 47 assists.
Coach Pete Hanson said the difference in the match was when Sangrey and Klanac stepped up after trailing, 1-0, in the match.
OSU’s four fifth-year starters are the key to its success, and they remain confident as they approach their fourth-straight appearance as NCAA semifinalists.
“Our experience is huge,” redshirt senior Kevin Heine said. “There’s no team out there with as much experience playing.”
“We’re a more cohesive unit than we’ve ever been,” Klanac said.
Sangrey, Klanac, Kehoe and redshirt senior Jason Tobkin were named to the All-Tournament team for OSU, along with Mike Bunting and Joseph Smalzer of Loyola-Chicago.
Kehoe was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
“We knew this would be the best team we’ve had, at least in my career,” Heine said Tuesday. “We just feel so comfortable together on the court.”
Klanac was part of two pivotal plays in Saturday’s final set, and the crowd erupted on both plays. He made the score 5-4 with a kill that was only possible because Kehoe ran out of bounds on the Loyola side of the court to keep the rally going. Klanac also had the kill on a long-fought point to make the score 22-16.
“We’re in a pretty good mental state of mind,” Hanson said. “We can deal with some adversity, and we can just keep playing.”
With the win, the Buckeyes are set to face Penn State at 9 p.m. Thursday. The winner will play Saturday for the NCAA Championship against the winner of the matchup featuring Southern California and California-Santa Barbara. All the games will be played at Recreation Hall at Penn State.
The Buckeyes are NCAA semifinalists once again, and this time they look to come back to Columbus with a national title.