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Men’s Volleyball: Kevin Burch leads Buckeyes into new era

Assistant coach Kevin Burch talked to freshman outside hitter Resse Devilbliss in the game against Lindenwood on Feb. 19. Credit: Aliyyah Jackson | Lantern Reporter

Three national titles, four coach of the year awards, 13 conference titles and 712 total wins. That’s the act men’s volleyball coach Kevin Burch must follow in taking over for Pete Hanson.

“It’s not easy,” Burch said.

Meanwhile, the team has room to grow, ending this past season 10-19 two years after winning a national championship.

They lost only three seniors, but they each made significant contributions in 2019: libero Aaron Samarin, who doubled all but one teammate in digs, middle blocker Blake Leeson, who led the team in blocks and finished second in kills, and setter Sanil Thomas, the assist leader.

Burch has experience with championship programs to draw from, even if he doesn’t have a head coaching background. He was an assistant for all three national championship teams under Hanson and was director of operations or an assistant for four other winners outside Ohio State.

Burch will share the new Covelli Center with other varsity head coaches, giving him additional support.

“You have great people to rely on,” Burch said. “To be able to walk across the arena and talk with [wrestling coach Tom] Ryan, walk two doors down and see [women’s volleyball coach Geoff Carlston], it’s unbelievable.”

Burch can also expect to rely on his assistant coaches.

Hudson Bates will serve as associate head coach after spending the previous two seasons as an assistant coach for Virginia women’s volleyball. Prior to that, he helped start a men’s volleyball program at Marymount, coaching it to a top 10 Division III ranking within four years.

Luke Wood Maloney was promoted from volunteer assistant coach to assistant coach shortly after Burch obtained the head coaching job. Maloney served as director of operations for Ohio State women’s volleyball in 2015 and holds over a decade of experience.

Mitch Lush will stay on as director of operations, a position he’s held for two seasons. He worked with Bates at Marymount as the top assistant for both men’s and women’s volleyball in 2016 and 2017.

Following Hanson’s departure, St. John Arena will no longer serve as the home for Ohio State men’s volleyball. It’s one final change that marks a new era in the program: a new home floor. The Covelli Center can house 3,700 spectators and will become the team’s training facility.

Burch feels that change could be a positive one and stated that his team will be gauged by how it handles adversity.  

“That’s what it’s all about when you’re replacing a legend,” Burch said. “What’s gonna define me as a coach and our program is gonna be how we handle the difficult situations, and there’s no better people to rely on in those tough situations than the coaches right next to me.” 

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