Freshman outside hitter Sean Ryan (10) attacking the ball against Loyola on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Kaycie Golic | For The Lantern

In the final road trip of the season, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team will head to Illinois this weekend to face off against No. 8 Lewis and No. 11 Loyola Chicago, the top two teams in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.

The Buckeyes (8-16, 3-7 MIVA) are fighting for a higher seed in the conference tournament, while Lewis (18-5, 9-1 MIVA) and Loyola Chicago (15-7, 8-2 MIVA) continue their season-long jostle for the top spot.

Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said the focus for the Buckeyes is trying to maintain a level of consistency this weekend.

“We’re just trying to get the same group to play together for a couple of nights in a row and develop some chemistry and some momentum,” Hanson said. “It’s going to be a big challenge. Those are two highly ranked teams.”

Loyola Chicago comes into the match Friday on a two-match winning streak, after claiming victories against then-No. 15 Ball State and then-No. 13 Purdue Fort Wayne. Those two wins, as well as two four-set losses to Lewis earlier in the month, bring the Ramblers a 2-2 conference record in March.

Loyola Chicago senior outside hitter Collin Mahan leads the team offensively, accumulating 286 kills and 32 aces, while senior middle blocker Paul Narup and senior libero Avery Aylsworth head up the defense, contributing 101 total blocks and 181 digs, respectively.

Lewis comes into the weekend following its only conference loss and only its fifth loss of the season in a five-set upset to then-No. 15 Ball State.

Their sweep of Loyola Chicago this season ensures that the Flyers need to win three of their last four matches to lock up the top spot in the conference, which would provide them with home-court advantage for the entirety of the conference tournament.

The Flyers are led by redshirt junior outside hitter Ryan Coenen with 256 kills, adding 30 aces, 105 digs and 48 total blocks. Senior setter Matt Yoshimoto has been a big contributor for Lewis as well, pacing the nation with 51 aces.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes enter the weekend hoping to build on their sweep of Quincy on Saturday.

Sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes leads the Buckeyes with 240 kills and 23 aces, adding 69 digs and 22 total blocks.

Hanes, a Chicago area-native, said he’s excited to return home, despite the challenging competition.

“I watched Lewis and Loyola growing up, so playing in those gyms is always pretty special, plus a lot of my family can usually make it out,” Hanes said. “We’re playing two very good teams this week but we have to keep getting better because we know we have to play everybody in the [conference] tournament.”

Ohio State will face No. 11 Loyola Chicago at 8 p.m. Friday in Chicago and No. 8 Lewis at 8 p.m. Saturday in Romeoville, Illinois.