Then-sophomore outside hitter Reese Devilbiss hits the ball over the net during the final
set of No. 3 Ohio State’s match against No. 8 Penn State on Jan. 28, 2018 in St. John Arena. The Buckeyes defeated the Nittany Lions in straight sets (25-19, 25-15, 25-17) to pick up their fifth win of the season. Credit: Aliyyah Jackson | Senior Reporter

Despite falling to Penn State in straight sets on Tuesday, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team brings momentum into its weekend matches against Lindenwood and Quincy at St. John Arena.

Senior setter Sanil Thomas and junior outside hitter Reese Devilbiss returned to the starting rotation for the Buckeyes (7-15, 2-6 MIVA) against Penn State after each missing multiple games battling injuries.

Thomas, who led the nation last season with 11.28 assists per set, hadn’t started since Jan. 26 against Ball State due to a right hand injury. Devilbiss had been sidelined with a litany of injuries since Feb. 21 against then-No. 10 Lewis.

Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said returning two key pieces of the lineup in Thomas and Devilbiss will positively influence the team in the long run.

“They haven’t been back long enough necessarily to really make severe changes or have a severe effect, but I think that’s going to happen,” Hanson said. “As Reese gets comfortable and he does a little bit and then Sanil does a little bit, it just lessens the pressure for all of the rest of the guys.”

Hanson said as the team gets more opportunities to develop a rhythm, the chemistry will come naturally.

Ohio State will get two more opportunities this weekend when it takes on familiar foes in Lindenwood and Quincy.

Lindenwood (7-15, 3-6 MIVA) defeated the Buckeyes earlier this season in straight sets, using 29 combined kills and nine blocks from freshman outside hitter Phil Swartz, junior opposite hitter Charley Hlavin and junior outside hitter Nick Stevenson to sweep Ohio State.

Hlavin leads the Lions this season with 176 kills, adding eight aces, 89 digs and 35 blocks.

The Buckeyes defeated Quincy (5-17, 0-9 MIVA) in their four-set meeting on Feb. 16. Junior outside hitter Omari Wheeler, who leads the Hawks this season with 282 kills, tallied 20 kills on 50 attacks in the loss.

Freshman libero Noam Hannoun accounted for 20 digs in the previous matchup with Ohio State. Hannoun leads the country with his 237 digs this season.

Redshirt senior middle blocker Blake Leeson said the team is using this weekend to focus on their own play, rather than on their opponents.

“We know the type of players and talent that we have on our floor when we’re healthy,” Leeson said. “It’s two must-win games for sure. We’ve got to get back on the right track and I think that starts on Friday.”

Ohio State returns to conference play at 7 p.m. Friday against Lindenwood and 7 p.m. Saturday against Quincy.