After dropping the first two sets, a short-handed No. 14 Ohio State (3-5) fought back and took Saint Francis (5-3) to five sets on Friday night, but couldn’t close out the match, losing its second straight match.
A mostly back-and-forth fifth set got away from the Buckeyes after a pair of kills from redshirt freshman outside hitter Michael Fisher and senior outside hitter Cole Thompson pushed the Red Flash lead to 13-10.
Ohio State and Saint Francis traded points, before Fisher hammered the match point home, ending the Buckeyes comeback and handing them their fifth loss in six matches.
The Buckeyes were without their top two setters—freshman Luke Lentin and senior Sanil Thomas—and the top scorer in the country: sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes.
To fill the gaps, the Buckeyes started three true freshman—middle blocker Ethan Talley, libero Parker Mikesch and outside hitter Sean Ryan.
Head coach Pete Hanson said considering the circumstances, he was “pleased.”
“We got it to the fifth set and we fought and competed hard,” Hanson said. “We just have to make a few more plays.”
Most of the match was controlled by team scoring runs, as there were a combined 16 scoring runs in the match.
Saint Francis rode six scoring runs for a total of 21 points to take the the first two sets, 25-18 and 25-21. Fisher led the Red Flash in those sets with 11 kills and one ace. He would finish the match with 27 kills and three aces.
Yet, the Buckeyes would not go down without a fight.
The Buckeyes came roaring into the third set, bringing together three scoring runs for a total of 10 points, a .714 hitting percentage and three kills from Ryan to win the set, 25-16.
In his first start for the Buckeyes, Ryan finished the match with 10 kills, three aces, and four digs.
Ryan said that he attributes his recent success to the upperclassmen leaders on the team.
“I think all of the leaders on our team have done tremendously,” Ryan said. “I know they’re here to teach us as much as they can and lead us and they’ve done an excellent job of that.”
Redshirt senior middle blocker Blake Leeson had a crucial kill in the fourth set, getting the Buckeyes to set point with a two-point lead and the serve. But Fisher finished two kills to force overtime. A kill by Talley and block assisted by junior outside hitter Reese Devilbiss won the set for the Buckeyes, 27-25.
Devilbiss tallied seven kills on 24 attacks for a .083 hitting percentage. He also added eight digs and five block assists in his first match back from a concussion he suffered in practice two weeks ago.
Ohio State will face Lincoln Memorial at 8 p.m. tomorrow at St. John Arena.