Ohio State men’s volleyball head coach Kevin Burch was in his hotel room in Newark, New Jersey, March 11 when his phone started buzzing. The Buckeyes had defeated Penn State three days prior and were scheduled to play the New Jersey Institute of Technology the next day.
Burch said he was heartbroken by what happened next.
“I just knew it wasn’t going to be good news,” Burch said. “I was told that our season had been canceled due to the coronavirus and that we needed to get home right away. It was a very sad and hard situation for me, and I just remember trying so hard to keep it together while on the phone.”
The season was Burch’s first as head coach for Ohio State, and his team had already accrued more wins in 19 games than it had in all of 2018-19.
Redshirt junior outside hitter Tyler Alter was playing poker in his hotel room and watching basketball with his teammates when they saw that the NBA had suspended its season due to the outbreak.
“That’s when we all looked at each other and knew that there was no way we would be playing the next day,” Alter said. “At that point we just knew it was only a matter of time before we’d hear from Burch. We were just waiting.”
On the morning of what was supposed to be a normal game day for the team, Burch called the whole team into the hotel conference room to deliver the news.
“It was a huge deal to us, and it was heartbreaking, especially for our seniors,” junior outside hitter Martin Lallemand said. “I think it’s really hard because we have been so used to practicing and playing every day, and now we have to get used to waking up and not having that huge part of our lives be there anymore.”
The Buckeyes ended the season with an 11-8 overall record and a 2-5 mark in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. Their final win against Penn State put an end to a four-of-five-game losing skid, but Ohio State started the year 6-0 –– its best start since a national championship-winning season in 2016-17.
Lallemand led Ohio State in three statistical categories with 17 aces, 104 digs and 206 kills. Senior outside hitter Reese Devilbiss followed close behind in kills with 203. Freshman setter Michael Wright contributed a team-high 602 assists, and freshman middle blocker Samuel Clark captured the most blocks at 54.
With the season ending earlier than expected, Ohio State lost its chance at redemption against teams it lost to earlier in the season, including Ball State, Lindenwood, Lewis, Loyola and Purdue.
Burch said Ohio State’s offseason schedule remains uncertain. Summer camps and meetings could be canceled, but nothing is set in stone.
“It all depends on how long it takes our country to get through this pandemic,” Burch said. “I’m just worried about the safety of my players and everyone else right now, because that’s all that’s been on my mind.”
The season’s cancellation also includes all MIVA and NCAA games.