The No. 14 Ohio State men’s volleyball team will attempt to win its first game in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) when it takes on Purdue Fort Wayne on Tuesday.
The Buckeyes (4-5, 0-1 MIVA) have won nine straight matches against the Mastodons (6-4, 0-0 MIVA) dating back to the 2014 season.
Head coach Pete Hanson said he fully expects a tough atmosphere at the Gates Sports Center for what could be a challenging matchup.
However, despite his team’s early season struggles, he feels that the Buckeyes might be more prepared for the matchup after the team’s win against Lincoln Memorial on Saturday helped push the team to work through the rough patches and play under control.
“They haven’t beaten us in a while and they’re going to be gunning for us,” Hanson said. “Now we can go in there more relaxed than we would had we not won [against Lincoln Memorial].”
The Mastodons come into the match on a two-game win streak, built by wins against Harvard and Sacred Heart. Junior outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas leads the team during this stretch with 33 kills, five aces and four blocks.
Ohio State and Purdue Fort Wayne have a single common opponent in No. 8 Stanford. The Buckeyes dropped the match in four sets, while the Mastodons won just one of seven sets played in its two defeats against the Cardinal.
But this Ohio State team is vastly different than the one that played Stanford in early January.
Sophomore outside hitter Jake Hanes tallied 24 kills and two aces in that match and senior setter Sanil Thomas contributed 41 assists, an ace and three digs.
Both Hanes and Thomas will sit out the match on Tuesday with injuries.
Multiple lineup changes were made to reorganize the team due to the injuries of Hanes and Thomas and freshman setter Luke Lentin, none more impactful than the move of freshman libero Parker Mikesch to full-time setter.
Mikesch has had success in his new position so far, totalling 92 assists in his first two starts.
He said he credits the support of those around him with the early success in his new role.
“When I was thrown into that position, my teammates did a great job of helping me out, letting me know that they have confidence in me, that I can fill that position,” Mikesch said. “It looks tough to do, but with teammates like that and a program like this, it makes it a lot easier.”
Hanson said he has loved seeing the young players on his team come in and embrace the opportunity to go out and compete, specifically Mikesch.
“You can’t say enough about a true freshman who’s really not playing the position we recruited him to play,” Hanson said. “He’s just a competitive gamer. He’s a guy that, when the whistle blows, he’s ready to play, can play any position and is just so mature for a young player.”
Ohio State will face Purdue Fort Wayne on the road at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.