The No. 5 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (13-3) defeated Pfeiffer University (9-5) in three consecutive sets (25-20, 25-15, 25-20) Friday night, defending its home court and swelling its winning streak to five matches.
In OSU’s 13 victories this season, opponents have taken a set just once.
Friday’s matchup was originally scheduled for Jan. 23, but it was postponed because winter weather made travel unsafe.
Despite the three-set triumph, the Buckeyes’ performance was far from being a dominant one. The Falcons brought what they had and were able to keep each set close.
“I thought we came out a little sluggish and I thought that Pfeiffer played hard,” OSU coach Pete Hanson said. “We cleaned up our side of the net a bit, so that was nice to see.”
In the first set, the Falcons got out to a quick lead, but OSU battled back, eventually forcing the opposition to take a timeout. After the short break, the Falcons were revitalized, pulling themselves back into the match. Yet, the relentlessness of OSU was too much down the stretch, as it went on to win the set 25-20.
Sophomore outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen led the Buckeyes with five kills in the opening frame.
The second set started out much like the first, but consecutive mental mistakes by the Falcons gave OSU a comfortable lead, which it would only build upon. The Buckeyes clinched the middle frame by a score of 25-15.
In the final set, with the Falcons needing to win to continue the match, OSU was the one that jumped out to an early lead behind a strong team effort. The Falcons weren’t going to give in, battling back to make the match close. But the Buckeyes, feeling the Falcons chipping into their lead, responded with a flurry of points again, forcing the opposition to take a quick timeout. Behind the momentum, the Scarlet and Gray would go on to win the set 25-20 to seal the contest.
“I thought that we took it well,” Szerszen said. “We had some downs and ups, but I thought we managed it pretty well.”
OSU finished the match with a .421 percent attack and eight service aces. The Buckeyes also tallied 31 total digs on the night. Individually, Szerszen had a match-high 16 kills. Junior setter Christy Blough paced OSU with a game-leading 34 assists.
The final set capped off a night in which the Buckeyes did whatever it took to get the win. This victory was similar to last year’s matchup against the Falcons in St. John Arena, in which OSU won in four sets (25-22, 28-26, 20-25, 25-18).
“It was a slower game, but I think that was just from us playing hard over the last few weeks,” junior outside hitter Miles Johnson said. “I think it was a little bit slower tonight, but that’s fine because we got the win.”
Two of the players on OSU have recently been awarded athletic honors. Szerszen received the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Offensive Player of the Week award, which he has now been given four times. Johnson was also recognized with the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Week honors, an award that only 15 players at OSU, including Johnson, have ever received.
“It’s nice to see the guys have their hard work pay off and get recognize by their peers,” Hanson said. “(It’s) kind of a validation that they’re doing the right things and they’re working on things we’re talking about,”
The Buckeyes are set to be back in action at St. John Arena next weekend, when they are scheduled to take on Loyola University on Friday night, followed by Lewis University an evening later. OSU has faced off against both teams before on Feb. 12 and 13, respectively. In each match, the Buckeyes swept their opponent on the road. Both rematches have scheduled 7 p.m. starts in Columbus.