When the No. 14 Ohio State men’s volleyball team steps onto the court in St. John Arena this weekend, it will look significantly different than it has this season.
The Buckeyes (3-4, 0-1 MIVA) will take on Saint Francis University (4-3) and Lincoln Memorial University (5-2) without their top two setters — freshman Luke Lentin and senior Sanil Thomas — and the nation’s top scorer: sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes.
Thomas and Lentin join junior setter Andrew Hillman, who hasn’t played this season after he sustained an injury during fall training, ensuring the Buckeyes will need to be creative in order to fill the setter position moving forward.
Head coach Pete Hanson said junior libero Chase Moothart and freshman libero Parker Mikesch are two players who will fill some gaps for the Buckeyes.
“You don’t need a whole lot out of everybody, you need a little bit from each guy,” Hanson said. “We’re just kind of that team right now because we’ve got some young guys playing.”
Hanson said having older players on the court will help Ohio State play as a cohesive unit.
One of the oldest players on the court, redshirt senior libero Aaron Samarin, said he tries to take ownership of his role as a leader with the new faces on the court.
“[I] try to make them feel more comfortable,” Samarin said. “I know they have a lot of energy, and I think if we try to control that and focus it more on comfort and confidence in their play, then we’ll see a lot of positives.”
On Friday, the Buckeyes will face a Saint Francis team coming off a 3-1 victory against McKendree. The Red Flash are led by redshirt freshman outside hitter Michael Fischer, who has tallied 102 kills and four aces.
The Buckeyes have only lost one of the 34 meetings between the Red Flash since 1993.
On Saturday, the Buckeyes will take on Lincoln Memorial, which beat Queens in straight sets in their last match. Junior opposite hitter and setter Evan Cory leads the Railsplitters with 94 kills, 33 digs and 20 aces.
This will be the first meeting between Lincoln Memorial and Ohio State in the two teams’ histories.
Junior outside hitter Reese Devilbiss will return to the court this weekend after a two-week absence due to a concussion suffered in practice.
“It’s been a long two weeks,” Devilbiss said. “It’s tough to see the guys go out there without you each match.”
Hanson said he’s looking forward to having Devilbiss back this weekend.
“Reese is a real steadying influence for us,“ Hanson said. “He’s the key to our passing and quite frankly, that was a part of our game that really went south on us.”
Ohio State takes on Saint Francis at 7 p.m. on Friday and Lincoln Memorial at 8 p.m. on Saturday at St. John Arena.