The No. 3 Ohio State Men’s volleyball team (5-2) swept No. 8 Penn State (3-2) in straight sets, winning 3-0 Sunday night at St. John Arena.
Head coach Pete Hanson said prior to the game, his team did not know what type of line-up to expect from Penn State due to an injured Nittany Lion, but that the Buckeyes still prepared for a tough match in the days leading up.
“The last few days in practice, it was a lot about our blocking and our defense in terms of, when we got Penn State into trouble, could we win that point by blocking them?” Hanson said. “Could we win that point by digging the ball and then letting Sanil set a hitter and kill that ball?”
Ohio State came out aggressive and big on the net in the first set, setting the tone for the rest of the match by winning 25-19. As a team, the Buckeyes hit .500, swinging hard from the middle and wing positions, while committing only two service errors in the first set.
Powerful serves by Ohio State challenged Penn State’s defense and forced out of system plays for the Nittany Lions. Ohio State redshirt junior middle blocker Blake Leeson stayed ready on the net, putting down at least three of Penn State’s overpasses. Redshirt freshman opposite Jake Hanes and senior outside hitter Maxime Hervoir had seven and five kills, respectively, in the first set, to contribute to the Buckeyes’ effective offense. Senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen had five of Ohio State’s seven digs in the set.
Ohio State showed improved stats in both blocks and digs from previous matches. Szerszen said the Buckeyes have been spending time in practice trying to improve in blocking and controlling the ball for stronger counter-attacks.
“We want to serve tough. When we serve tough the other team struggles and then it’s easier for us to get blocks and digs,” Szerszen said. “It’s really frustrating when we do that and then we don’t get those blocks or digs and counter-attack on them. The first couple matches we struggled a little bit with that.”
The Buckeyes got off to a slower start in the second set. They battled Penn State point-by point until the two were tied at 14 when Szerszen scored a kill for the side-out and served for an eight-point run. After a service error, Penn State got the ball back, but lost it in the next play when Leeson put the ball down for Ohio State.
Though Penn State provided stiff competition for the first half of the second set, Ohio State’s aggressive offense picked back up in the second half, shutting down the Nittany Lions.
Penn State redshirt sophomore setter Luke Braswell, named last week’s EIVA player of the week for averaging 9.86 assists per set and helping his team hit an overall hitting percentage of .522, had only four assists in the second set. The team hit a .409 in the second set with six kills and six attacking errors. Penn State lost the second set by 10 points, 25-15.
Ohio State started the third set with a large presence on the net, a stark contrast to Penn State’s diminished energy. The Buckeyes hit a .520, with which Penn State could not keep up. The Nittany Lions raised their hitting percentage to .125, but had only eight kills. Ohio State finished the set quickly, beating Penn State 25-17 and sealing the match victory.
Topping the kill leaderboard were Hanes (16), Hervoir (10) and Szerszen (9). Ohio State junior setter Sanil Thomas had fewer assists than usual, but still topped the leaderboard with 29. Szerszen’s 10 digs were the most in the match and Leeson finished first in blocks with four.