Joe Podelco / Photo editor
For this group of seniors in the past three seasons, the story remained the same. A bid to the NCAA Championship semifinals and nothing more.
In the 2010 semifinals, the Stanford Cardinal overpowered the Ohio State men’s volleyball team in three straight sets (30-25, 30-26, 30-17).
What followed was a long flight home.
At that time, coach Pete Hanson told his players to write down their goal for the next season.
“Each kid said his goal was to win the National Championship,” Hanson said.
Now, a little more than a year later, the mission has been accomplished.
All-American outside hitter Jeff Menzel jumped up for a kill on Championship point, but a wall of Steven Kehoe, Kevin Heine and Jason Tobkin stopped him in his tracks.
Kehoe connected on the block as the Buckeyes defeated the California-Santa Barbara Gauchos, 3-2, for the program’s first national title.
“Our coaching staff told us if we blocked him once in the last five points, we would win the match,” Kehoe said.
“I think deep down we believed we earned the right to be here,” Hanson said. “It’s really cool how that came to fruition.”
The Scarlet and Gray outplayed the Gauchos in about every aspect of the match, but OSU’s 26 service errors kept UCSB, which had just six service errors, in the match.
“I definitely came out tense, and I think a lot of the guys did, especially from the service line,” Kehoe said.
“It was clearly frustrating,” he said. “(OSU) never panicked. It’s like when a pitcher can’t locate his fastball. It will come, and it did.”
Hanson said it was key to isolate Menzel and force his supporting cast to win the match.
“I think when you hold an All-American to 12 kills on 40 swings and he hits .025, you’ve done a pretty good job,” Hanson said.
Junior Shawn Sangrey led OSU with a match-high 32.5 points and 30 kills. His career-high 30 kills are the most by any Buckeye this season.
Kehoe added a season-high 65 assists and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“For our seniors, it was their last collegiate volleyball game ever,” Sangrey said. “We wanted to go out on top, and that’s what we did.”
Kehoe, Sangrey and John Klanac were named to the All-Tournament team.
OSU overcame its serving woes with a strong offensive effort. The Buckeyes outhit UCSB .329 to .198, had a 74-45 advantage in kills and led the match in assists, 70-42.
The Buckeyes are the third team outside the West to win the title. Penn State won in 1994 and 2008.
OSU holds a 1-2 record in national title games. The Buckeyes lost, 3-1, against USC in 1977 and, 3-0, to UCLA in 2000.