The Ohio State men’s volleyball team will follow up its straight-set victory against Lees-McRae with a trip to State College, Pennsylvania, Tuesday to take on its final nonconference foe this season at Penn State.
The Nittany Lions (8-12, 5-2 EIVA) enter the matchup with the Buckeyes (7-14, 2-6 MIVA), having lost four straight matches to top-15 teams, all of which have previously defeated Ohio State.
In matches against then-No. 11 USC, then-No. 5 UCLA, No. 13 Purdue Fort Wayne and No. 15 Ball State, Penn State managed to win four out of 16 sets. In matches against those same teams, Ohio State won three out of 15 sets.
While the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions haven’t fared well against common opponents, both teams have experience against each other.
In a Jan. 5 match at St. John Arena, a healthy Ohio State team defeated Penn State in four sets. Senior setter Sanil Thomas guided the Buckeyes to a .360 hitting percentage and added 46 assists while sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes hit at a .413 clip, tallying 24 kills.
On Tuesday, Thomas will likely return for his first start since injuring his right hand in late January, and Hanes, his most frequent collaborator, will be on the court once again after resting against Lees-McRae.
Hanes’ 202 kills and 21 aces lead the team, while Thomas will try to add to his team-leading 284 assists, 25 of which he added in two sets off the bench against Lees-McRae.
For the Nittany Lions, redshirt junior outside hitter Henrik Falck Lauten paces Penn State with 181 kills, adding 13 aces, 41 total blocks and 86 digs.
Defensively, redshirt freshman libero Will Bantle and redshirt junior middle blocker Jason Donorovich lead the way, accruing 130 digs and 63 total blocks on the season, respectively.
Along with his defense, Donorovich ranks No. 1 in the conference and No. 11 in the country with his .387 hitting percentage.
The Buckeyes hope to thwart Donorovich and the Penn State offense with a defense that has totaled 125 blocks and 623 digs this season.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Blake Leeson and redshirt senior libero Aaron Samarin have played a big part in the defensive success for Ohio State this season, accounting for 63 total blocks and 117 digs, respectively.
Leeson and Samarin are the only two Buckeyes who have started every match this season, and Ohio State will need to lean on its defense to complete a season sweep of Penn State Tuesday.
Ohio State takes on Penn State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in State College, Pennsylvania.