The No. 5 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (9-2, 2-0 MIVA) swept No. 14 Fort Wayne (9-2, 1-1 MIVA) in three straight sets to maintain an undefeated conference record.
Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said it was not clear going into the match whether to expect a three-, four- or five-set match.
“They’re a much improved team, but they had a really, really tough year last year. Improvement is kind of in the eye of the beholder,” Hanson said. “They’re playing a bunch of sophomores, and some freshmen and maybe a junior, and I think the experience and the moment kind of favored us.”
The first set foreshadowed a good serving match for the Buckeyes, who amounted four service aces in the first set alone. Fort Wayne struggled with receiving serves and were unable to run an aggressive offense, averaging a .143 as a team. Mastodon redshirt outside hitter Colton Stone carried Fort Wayne in kills, contributing five of its nine total kills.
Ohio State also struggled with attacking in the first set, hitting a .143. Despite matching Fort Wayne’s hitting percentage, the Buckeyes won the set 25-23.
Mastodon blockers were successful in moving from pin to pin across the net and keeping the ball on Ohio State’s side, but the Buckeyes countered with good defense by staying light on their feet and moving to the ball.
The Buckeyes picked up their offense in the second set, hitting a match-high .393 hitting percentage and shutting down Fort Wayne’s defense and counterattacks. Ohio State middle blockers Blake Leeson and Nick Laffin showed force from the middle, contributing seven kills, helping the Buckeyes win 25-19.
The night seemed to go downhill for the Mastodons in the final set with their hitting percentage dropping to -.125 for the set. Both teams passed well, but Ohio State had a better handle on the ball that allowed them to surge ahead. The Buckeyes felt comfortable enough to sub in sophomore outside hitter Reese Devilbliss and sophomore setter Andrew Hillman for some late-set gameplay.
Toward the beginning, the teams were close, but leading 5-4, Ohio State went on a 10-3 point run to put them at 15-7. The third set was the lowest scoring for Fort Wayne, who lost to the Buckeyes by 11 points, 25-14.
“I think Fort Wayne struggled with connecting on their pins,” Leeson said. “I think their offense was a little too fast for their own ability in some cases, forcing thins, trying to get split blocks and it worked sometimes, but they were high-error.”
After the match, Hanson said he thought the team’s serving played an important role in its win.
“Our servers put a lot of pressure on their passers and their offense and if you look at the stats, their hitting numbers got worse as the match went on because our serving got better as the match went on,” he said.
The Buckeyes ended the weekend on a high note, starting conference season off 2-0 after their victories against Ball State and Fort Wayne.
Ohio State will continue conference play at St. John Arena, facing Lindenwood University on Thursday and Quincy University on Saturday.