The No. 2 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (23-1, 12-0 MIVA) notched another win on its belt, sweeping rival No. 11 Ball State University (15-7, 6-5 MIVA) in straight sets on Saturday in St. John Arena.
The win for the Buckeyes keeps them perfect in Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association play for the season and atop the MIVA standings. The Ball State Cardinals’ third straight MIVA loss keeps them slotted at fifth best in the conference standings.
“I thought we had a really, really sharp and energetic practice yesterday. I saw a lot energy in the guys. Their spirits were up,” OSU coach Pete Hanson said. “I really felt like that was going to carry over into tonight, and it really did.”
After trading back-and-forth points to begin the match, OSU began to pull away after a 5-1 run to take the lead 13-8. Two more three-point runs gave the Buckeyes a 22-13 lead. An attacking error from freshman outside hitter Ball State’s Matt Szews sealed the team’s fate in the first frame, losing 25-16.
The Buckeyes’ attacking regime proved to be too strong for the Cardinals defense, as Ball State could only dig five balls in the first set. Coming into the match, Ball State was averaging 9.14 digs per set as the sixth-ranked team in that statistic in the country.
The second set started off close and remained tied at 8. A three-point run gave the Buckeyes the lead 13-9. Three kills and two aces from junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen helped OSU eventually win the set, 25-15.
For the second time during the night, the Buckeyes tallied nine digs and 2.5 blocks. This time, OSU’s defensive efforts kept Ball State’s attacking rate to .045. Senior opposite hitter Miles Johnson and Szerszen both put four balls a piece to the hardwood, while the entire Buckeye squad swung at a rate of .500 in the second frame.
“You could just sense that they were eager to play. They were excited to play,” Hanson said. “I thought all the guys were energized tonight. I’m real happy for them, and they just played a real nice match.”
After intermission, the Buckeyes took four straight points with the help of two service aces from junior outside hitter Maxime Hervoir. Points continued to be scarce for the Cardinals as they faced a 14-8 deficit midway through the third set. The Cardinals had a late set surge but their efforts fell short, losing the final set 25-19.
“I’m trying to improve my level because the championship is so close,” Hervoir said. “We’ll need everybody to be at maximum in May. So, I’m trying to take responsibilities and be ready for these great games.”
For the first time all season, the Cardinals did not stuff their opponent in the match. Before Saturday, Ball State was slotted No. 4 in the country in blocks per set with 2.55.
“The bottom line is our passers did a great job,” Hanson said. “Anytime you have multiple options and you’re passing well, if your setters are doing a good job and your hitters are executing, you’re probably going to beat up the blockers and the diggers. The offense is at an advantage.”
The Buckeyes are back in action again on Tuesday against Big Ten rival No. 13 Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania, at 7 p.m.