In a fitting end to an odd season, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team could not continue its recent five-set magic, falling in four sets to No. 10 Loyola Chicago in the opening match of the conference tournament, 15-25, 25-20, 14-25 and 22-25.
The loss eliminates the Buckeyes (10-19, 5-10 MIVA) from the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament and any chance at a bid for the NCAA tournament. The Ramblers (20-7, 12-2 MIVA) move on to face No. 14 Purdue Fort Wayne in the semifinals Wednesday.
Heading into the fourth set, it seemed Ohio State might find its late-set heroics again and come out with a victory.
Sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes crushed a kill to bring the Buckeyes and the Ramblers’ even at 21 late in the fourth set, but three straight points, including a block and a kill by senior middle blocker Paul Narup and an ace by senior outside hitter Collin Mahan propelled Loyola Chicago to a 25-22 fourth set victory.
Mahan led the Ramblers with 14 kills, three aces and 11 digs. Junior middle blocker Kyle Piekarski led the team defensively with six total blocks, adding an ace and nine kills.
In familiar fashion, Ohio State struggled out of the gate in the first set.
After jumping out to an early 4-3 lead, the Ramblers ran away with the first set, scoring 11 of the next 17 points. Hanes contributed a kill and two aces in hopes of cutting into the lead, but Loyola Chicago responded with five straight points of its own, including kills by Piekarski, Mahan and senior outside hitter Will Tischler, setting the Ramblers up with a 22-13 set lead. The teams traded the final four points, giving Loyola Chicago a 25-15 first-set victory.
Three of the Ramblers’ eight aces came in the first set and their stellar efficiency, hitting at a .652 clip, helped stifle any hopes of an Ohio State comeback. But the Buckeyes would not go silently.
Right on cue, Ohio State came alive in the second set. A five-point run, including a kill and an ace by Hanes and a kill by freshman outside hitter Sean Ryan turned a 6-4 deficit into an 8-6 Ohio State lead. The Buckeyes continued to add to their lead, courtesy of kills by Hanes and multiple errors by Loyola Chicago, but kills by Piekarski and Narup brought the Buckeyes’ lead to one, 16-15.
Ohio State answered with a four-point run featuring back-to-back aces by Hanes, reestablishing a five-point cushion which the Buckeyes would carry to the end of the set, winning 25-20, before falling in the next two sets.
Ohio State finished the 2019 campaign with a 10-19 record, finishing 5-10 in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.