Then-junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen bumps the ball during the NCAA national championship game on Saturday. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Oller Reporter

The No. 9 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (17-4, 8-2 MIVA) will have a shot at redemption when it welcomes Lewis and Loyola to St. John Arena for its final two home matches of the regular season. Following tradition, Saturday night’s match will be a chance for the team to honor soon-to-be soon-to-be graduating seniors Nicolas Szerszen, Maxime Hervoir, Nick Laffin and Casey Piper.  

In their last matchup against the No. 6 Loyola Hawks (19-4, 9-1 MIVA), the Buckeyes took the lead in the final set, then lost it, falling 16-14 in the fifth and final set of the match to clinch the defeat.

Senior middle blocker Nick Laffin said he has been thinking about Thursday night’s game since the Buckeyes returned from Lindenwood Sunday night. 

“I’m very, very excited,” Laffin said. “I feel like the last time we played them at their house we kind of let that one slip away. Not only losing, but letting it slip away made me want it that much more.” 

Senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen said he thinks that coming into the match as the underdog could make it easier on Ohio State.

The underdog mentality stems from the previous matchup between the two teams when the now-No. 10 Lewis Flyers (16-8, 7-3 MIVA) defeated the Buckeyes 3-0 on Feb. 22, ending their 28-match conference win streak.  

At the front of Lewis’ lineup stands freshman outside hitter Ryan Coenen. In the match against Ohio State earlier this season, the 6-foot-9 Coenen nailed 21 kills, the most in his young career.  

Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said he hopes playing in St. John Arena will reduce the energy that drove Coenen back when he played in front of Lewis’ crowd.

Saturday night also marks the near end of the line for seniors Szerszen, Hervoir, Laffin and Piper. 

While the team will be focused on Lewis, the seniors said it will be an emotional game.

“Looking back, I definitely know that I’m going to miss it,” Laffin said. “Spending my last five years here, I think just the amount of time I’ve spent in here and the amount of fun I’ve had in here and especially the amount of work I’ve put in here, it’s going to be pretty emotional in realizing that my days are winding down and my last day might be only a few weeks ahead of me.” 

The senior group’s unanimous favorite memory is winning the 2017 NCAA Championship.

“I remember coming out on the court during warmups and I had never felt so low to the ground,” Laffin said. “This stadium is pretty tall and usually we have people on the first or second row, but we had people up in the upper bleachers and it felt like a brand new place because I had never seen so many people pack this place out and support us and that was amazing. Then winning in terrific fashion was even better. It was the icing on the cake.” 

This senior group wants that moment again this season. In order to achieve that goal, the Buckeyes will first have to prove it can take out top-10 teams like Loyola and Lewis. They will have a chance to prove that ability Thursday and Saturday.