The No. 5 Ohio State men’s volleyball team will kick off an eight-game road trip this weekend with a pair of daunting matches against top-10 conference rivals Loyola and Lewis.
Both No. 6 Lewis (9-4, 3-1 MIVA) and No. 8 Loyola (10-3, 3-1 MIVA) trail Ohio State (11-2, 4-0 MIVA) for the top spot in the conference. Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said he expects Lewis and Loyola to be focused on defending their home courts.
“The mantra through the whole conference is you really got to take care of your home court,” Hanson said. “We expect it’s going to be a hard weekend.”
Ohio State redshirt junior middle blocker Blake Leeson said he’s excited for this weekend’s matches.
“I prefer playing more comparable teams to the style we play. I think it’s more exciting, it’s more similar to what we expect to play in our gym,” Leeson said. “I think from that standpoint it’ll be a lot of fun but definitely a challenge.”
Currently ranked third in the conference, the Flyers have won three of their four conference matches, falling only to Ball State. The Buckeyes beat Lewis in both matchups last year.
Lewis’ three-set loss to Ball State might seem favorable for the Buckeyes given Ohio State’s Feb. 8 win against Ball State, though the Buckeyes required all five sets to pull off the win.
Hanson said Lewis’ loss to Ball State was not unexpected, but added the Flyers were able to rebound in their next game with a dominating win against Fort Wayne.
“Ball State had their backs against the wall,” Hanson said. They couldn’t afford to lose a match on their home floor and fall three matches behind the conference leaders. I think they had a great sense of urgency and it looked like Lewis did not come with that same sense of urgency.”
Lewis senior outside hitter Ryan Coenen earned three player of the week awards after early-season play against USC. The first set of the match went to an abnormal set score of 42-40.
Though Coenen has averaged a .286 hitting percentage this season, he hit a .621 in Lewis’ match against USC, proving himself to be an asset to the team in matches where endurance is crucial.
Ohio State will head to Romeoville, Illinois, for its matchup against Lewis at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Loyola is currently seated second in the conference. Last season, the Buckeyes won both conference matches against Loyola in three-set sweeps.
Just like the Flyers, Loyola lost its only conference match to Ball State while winning its other three matchups.
Flyers junior outside hitter Collin Mahan was awarded MIVA offensive player of the week after last weekend’s games against Fort Wayne and Ball State. Mahan records 3.51 kills per set, an average rivaling that of Ohio State’s redshirt freshman opposite Jake Hanes (3.92) and senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen (3.46).
Hanson said going up against another strong offensive team will pose a challenge.
“That’s where we’re going to have to be good with our service game and try to put some pressure on those guys,” Hanson said. “We’re going to have to just really dig down and grind on the defensive component in terms of locking and digging and creating opportunities to score.”
Ohio State will meet Loyola in Chicago at 8 p.m. Saturday.