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Men’s Volleyball: Ohio State prepares for clash with Lewis in MIVA semifinals

Junior setter Sanil Thomas sets the ball during the second set of No. 3 Ohio State’s match against No. 8 Penn State on Jan. 28, 2018 in St. John Arena. The Buckeyes defeated the Nittany Lions in straight sets (25-19, 25-15, 25-17) to pick up their fifth win of the season. Credit: Aliyyah Jackson | Senior Reporter

The No. 7 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (21-5, 11-3 MIVA) will continue its march through the MIVA tournament when it battles Lewis University (19-10, 9-5 MIVA) for a spot in the MIVA finals at 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. John Arena.

Ohio State and Lewis have faced off twice this season and split the pair of matches — each winning at home by a final score of 3-0. The most recent match was March 31 at St. John Arena in which the Buckeyes had the home advantage and redeemed their earlier loss against the Flyers.

If history is prepared to repeat itself, the Buckeyes should feel comfortable knowing they have home-court advantage.

“That’s a huge advantage for us. Clearly, the last time we played we handled them fairly well,” head coach Pete Hanson said. “It was here in this building and, you know, I think the guys are in a good frame of mind.”

Junior setter Sanil Thomas anticipates that this match might not be as easy as the last team the two teams faced off against one another. Unlike last time, both teams have something big for which to play.

Not only will the two teams be playing for a spot in the MIVA finals, but the winner will put itself in a good position to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“We know they’re going to play hard, but we’re going to see if we can match that energy,” Thomas said. “We know that if we play to our level it’ll be a good match. We’re hoping for their best and preparing as much as we can.”

The winner of Wednesday’s matchup will advance from the semifinals into the finals to face the winner of the game between No. 11 Ball State and No. 8 Loyola.

Like Ohio State and Lewis, Ball State and Loyola split the season series against one another with each winning on their respective home courts. Each team has a drastically different style of play, but Hanson said he expects Loyola to have the upper hand given that it will be playing on its home court in Chicago.

“That’s the rubber game between those two teams. Each team won on their own home court and, again, Ball State is at Loyola so you would have to give the advantage to the home team, Loyola, but this is sports and anything can happen,” Hanson said.

Thomas said the matchup between the two will be an intriguing one to follow. Though Ball State is a much more defensive team that does not beat itself, Thomas said Loyola will play a physical brand of volleyball that keeps them aggressive most of the time.

While Hanson has looked ahead briefly to the potential matchup that could lie on the other side of the semifinal clash with Lewis, he understands the importance of focusing mainly on what is directly ahead of him and his team.

Right now, he feels the team will just need to keep its focus on its own gameplay and continue to improve to have a chance against the Flyers.

“We lost two five-set matches — one to Loyola, one to Ball State — where we were ahead 2-0 in both of those matches, took a 10-minute break and then kind of lost our momentum,” Hanson said. “I just want to make sure we get to Saturday and we play somebody on Saturday.”

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