With “win or go home” in full effect for the No. 2 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (28-2, 16-0 MIVA), the Buckeyes are looking to keep the momentum rolling from Saturday’s sweep to Wednesday’s semifinals match against No. 11 Ball State (19-9, 9-7 MIVA).
After downing Quincy in straight sets in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association quarterfinals, the Buckeyes hold a perfect record in conference play thus far and will clinch the MIVA Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament if they win their next two games.
“I don’t think there’s more pressure,” said senior middle blocker Matt Dorn. “I think there’s always pressure to just keep winning and just keep playing well. I think it’s pretty much the same now.”
Ball State is a familiar foe for OSU with the Buckeyes having faced the Cardinals more than any other opponent in program history. Both OSU and Ball State were founding member schools of the MIVA conference.
Since 1968, the teams have met on a total of 179 occasions, with the Buckeyes holding the upper hand in the all-time series 98-83. The No. 4-seeded Cardinals have only won one of the last seven meetings.
“The two times we played them earlier this season, I thought we had good offensive nights, and we had good serving nights,” said OSU coach Pete Hanson. “They’re a team that plays with a real focus on defense in terms of blocking, digging, transitioning the ball, keeping the ball coming back at you.”
Ball State will come into Columbus ranked top-10 nationally in three defensive categories. The Cardinals are third in digs per set, averaging 9.37, and fifth in blocks per set, averaging 2.48.
Ball State’s junior middle blocker Matt Walsh holds the sixth spot nationally for individuals in blocks per set, with 1.19. In Walsh’s last meeting with the Buckeyes, he failed to record any blocks against OSU’s attacking regime.
OSU’s 1.94 aces per set is tops in the country. MIVA Player of the Year junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen leads the nation with 0.64 aces per set.
Szerszen, along with senior opposite Miles Johnson, heads OSU’s offensive pursuits with both players ranked in the top-10 nationally in points per set. Johnson, the top point producer, averages 4.81 points per set.
“We talked in the locker room about (how) this is the beginning of a playoff run. (Saturday) needed to be our best match,” Hanson said. “I put on the board that now Wednesday’s match has to be the best match of the year. Each step going forward, we just need to step it up a little bit. Ratchet up the intensity, ratchet up the focus.”
The Buckeyes and the Cardinals face off on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in St. John Arena.