The energy was through the roof of St. John Arena with the No. 9 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (18-4, 9-2 MIVA) returning from its five-week road-trip in one of its most pivotal conference matchups of the year.
Lifted by the excitement, the Buckeyes came onto the floor and took care of business, beginning aggressively and defeating No. 6 Loyola 3-1. The lone loss came in the third set at the end of a 30-point overtime that ended 41-39 in favor of the Ramblers (19-5, 9-2 MIVA).
What began as an uneventful set eventually picked up speed at 15-14 and turned into one of the longest NCAA volleyball sets of the 2018 season. Ohio State senior outside hitter Maxime Hervoir said the only thought in a player’s head during a set like that is to continue fighting.
“You’re just trying to keep going,” Hervoir said. “You’re so tired that you’re just trying to do your best at that moment.”
In Ohio State’s previous matchup with the Ramblers in Chicago, the Buckeyes took the first two sets, but dropped the remaining three to lose the match. Entering Thursday night’s fourth set, the Buckeyes looked tired, but not beat.
Despite low energy, Hervoir said he was not worried about tonight’s match being a repeat of the last.
“At Loyola, we let them come back and on set three [of tonight’s match], we fought until the end,” he said. “So we were already in this mindset like, ‘just keep going and fight as hard as we can.'”
Ohio State took a 14-11 lead, one it kept through the end of the set. Redshirt freshman opposite Jake Hanes finished the match with a service ace and the team swarmed the court, filled with the sweet taste of revenge.
Though both the longest set and the clinching set were the final two of the match, head coach Pete Hanson was especially pleased by the team’s performance in the first two sets.
“The first two sets, we played excellent volleyball,” Hanson said. “Just really, really did the things that we had talked about all week in practice. Our tactics were good. Our execution of our tactics [was] good.”
The first two sets seemed to portend a quick night with the Buckeyes beating the Ramblers 25-20 and 25-16.
The first set was fast paced with both teams playing well. However, Ohio State had the necessary edge to win. Ohio State senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen got the ball rolling for the team, leading in kills, service aces and digs. Rambler junior outside hitter Collin Mahan and senior outside hitter Ryan Jamison carried their team offensively, each tallying four kills in the opening set.
The entire Ohio State team seemed to be fired up with aggressive kills and big blocks on the net throughout the second set. Hervoir finished the second set with eight kills and two blocks. Throughout the remainder of the match, Hervoir didn’t let off, racking up a career-high 24 kills.
“I didn’t play very well when we were playing away,” Hervoir said. “We had a super long streak away and it was really hard for me mentally I was really focused today because I wanted to be better and come back hard in my gym and show that I will be here hard in conference.”
On Saturday in the team’s final home match of the year, Ohio State will play No. 10 Lewis, which beat the Buckeyes 3-0 on Feb. 22 and ended their 28-match MIVA winning streak.
Hanson said he feels good about playing Lewis after seeing what his team was able to do against another quality opponent during Thursday’s match.
“My personal feeling is Loyola’s a more balanced team, that they have more offensive weapons that can really hurt you at a high level,” he said. “Lewis has a couple good players but I think if we can kind of control their couple of guys, it should be hopefully in our favor. I think that if we play the kind of volleyball that we played tonight, we’ll be in a really good spot.”