Sophomore outside hitter Martin Lallemand (6) attacking the ball against Loyola on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Credit: Kaycie Golic | For The Lantern

Ohio State plays final matches at St. John Arena against No. 13 Purdue Fort Wayne, Ball State

The Ohio State men’s volleyball team will play its final two matches in St. John Arena this weekend before moving to the Covelli Center next season, closing out the regular season against No. 13 Purdue Fort Wayne (16-9, 8-4 MIVA) and Ball State (14-13, 5-7 MIVA).

Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said the Buckeyes will have to contain a few players in order to end the season on a high note.

“[Purdue Fort Wayne] has an outside hitter, Pelegrin Vargas, who’s having a great year,” Hanson said. “We’ve got a couple of guys to contend with, but again, for us, the mantra is, ‘We’ve got to take care of our own selves.’”

The Mastodons enter the weekend having won three-straight matches, including sweeps of then-No. 13 Ball State and Quincy.

Vargas leads Purdue Fort Wayne — and the conference — with 348 kills, also doling out 30 aces, 159 digs and 55 blocks. Defensively, senior libero Kolbie Knorr paces the Mastodons with 174 digs, while junior middle blocker Richie Diedrich anchors the front line with 92 blocks.  

Unranked Ohio State is coming off a disappointing weekend,  dropping matches against then-No. 8 Lewis and then-No. 11 Loyola Chicago, both in straight sets. While the Buckeyes kept pace offensively, totaling a combined 103 kills through both matches, they struggled to keep the ball in play, committing 62 total errors.

Sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes led the Buckeyes with 33 kills and 20 total errors in the pair of losses.

Hanson said cutting down on errors is the main priority for his team going into this weekend.

“Jake was the leading scorer in the match against Lewis — on both teams,” Hanson said. “We can make excuses but at the end of the day it’s about, ‘Hey, we know we can do it offensively, we’ve just got to cut down on some errors and stay into those sets longer and force other teams into making some errors.’”

Ball State enters the weekend needing a pair of wins to clinch the fourth seed in the MIVA tournament. Before coming to Columbus, the Cardinals will face McKendree Thursday in hopes of taking the upper hand on the  No. 4 Bearcats.

The Cardinals are led by junior outside hitter Matt Szews, who has 332 kills, 35 aces and 163 digs, adding 66 total blocks.

To be successful this weekend, the Buckeyes will need to rely on their four seniors, who will be playing in their final home matches: libero Chase Moothart, middle blocker Blake Leeson, libero Aaron Samarin and setter Sanil Thomas.

Thomas said playing in his final matches at St. John Arena will feel bittersweet, but it won’t change his mentality.

“I still remember coming in and playing in my first game at St. John like it was yesterday,” Thomas said. “I’m just trying to make the best of it and focus on getting some ‘W’s’ and getting some momentum heading into the conference tournament.”

Ohio State will play at St. John Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday against No. 13 Purdue Fort Wayne and for the last time at 7 p.m. Saturday against Ball State.