The No. 5 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (8-2, 1-0 MIVA) was victorious in its first conference match of the season against long-time rival Ball State (5-6, 0-1 MIVA), winning 3-2.
Throughout the night, the Buckeyes’ offensive distribution differed from the past. Head coach Pete Hanson said Ball State’s defense caused some issues for redshirt freshman opposite Jake Hanes, which forced Ohio State to use more of its other offensive options.
“[Senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen] was pretty good throughout, although there were times that they game-planned for Nic. They knew that we set him in critical situations,” Hanson said. “Maxime [Hervoir] had a great night offensively. He became the guy that kind of carried us down the stretch.”
Hervoir hit a .400 and topped the leaderboard with 19 kills.
The first set started slow with both teams struggling to establish tempos. Though the Cardinals did not stand out in attacks, they wielded a solid defense with four blocks and 11 digs in the opening set and managed to shut down Ohio State’s offense. The Cardinals won 25-21.
Hanes was off his game for the first set, hitting a -.007, despite entering the match with a .642 hitting percentage. As a team, the Buckeyes had a match-high nine attacking errors and hit a .121.
Ohio State redshirt junior middle blocker Blake Leeson brought the Buckeyes back to life in the second set with four key blocks across the net and aggressive attacks from the middle. Leeson scored nine of the Buckeyes’ 25 points in the set. Szerszen also came out with increased gusto, hitting a .800.
The Cardinals had only two digs the entire set and hit a -.059, losing to the Buckeyes 25-13 to even the match at one set apiece.
The third set served another loss for the Buckeyes with Ohio State falling 25-18. The Cardinals bounced back after their loss with high energy and the Buckeyes struggled to keep up. Ohio State’s hitting percentage dropped to .346 from .706 in the previous set, and it committed nine hitting errors.
Although Ohio State struggled in the third set, Hervoir picked up some momentum, scoring six kills.
“After the first set, I was really pissed. I started to bring energy because I saw the guys needed energy and I told them to get pissed off and to be aggressive,” Hervoir said.
He said in the first set, Ohio State struggled with its serves. The team’s issues allowed Ball State to have an aggressive offense.
The Buckeyes entered the fourth set trailing 2-1, in danger of dropping their first conference game of the season. The Cardinals jumped out of the gate fast and kept the Buckeyes at arm’s distance away for a while, maintaining a consistent one or two point lead early.
Trailing 7-3 the Buckeyes sided out and scored the next three points to catch up to the Cardinals. Leading 7-6, Ball State disrupted Ohio State’s run with a kill from and maintained the lead until the two teams knotted things up at 22. Ohio State pulled away though and won 27-25 to tie the match at two sets apiece. Hervoir and Hanes combined for 11 kills in the set.
Hanson said there was a point during the fourth set that he could see the match going either way.
“I think it was finally at about 17-all where we finally got the add-point where we were in the lead and we were playing ahead,” he said. “That makes all the difference in the world mentally and up until that point in time, yeah, it was a pretty dicey match.”
With the game on the line in the fifth and final set, there were many long rallies with aggressive attacks and consistent defense from both teams. But the Buckeyes reached eight points first, switching court sides with a three-point lead.
Ohio State junior setter Sanil Thomas had a four-serve run towards the end of the set until the Cardinal sided out, trailing 14-10. A quick set from Thomas and powerful kill by Leeson won the set 15-10 and gave the Buckeyes a 15-10 victory.