Cody Cousino / Asst. multimedia editor
The Ohio State volleyball team continues its road toward a Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament championship Wednesday and says it’s up for the challenge.
The top-ranked Buckeyes earned a bye in the MIVA quarterfinals and face the third-seeded Lewis Flyers at 7 p.m. in St. John Arena.
The team has experienced players in its lineup, including five fifth-year seniors who have led it to an 11-1 record in the MIVA and a 22-6 record overall.
“We knew this would be the best team we’ve had, at least in my career,” redshirt senior Kevin Heine said. “We just feel so comfortable together on the court.”
This season, OSU coach Pete Hanson was the MIVA Coach of the Year, and redshirt senior setter Steven Kehoe was the conference’s Player of the Year.
This was the 11th time Hanson won the award, and he has also racked up 13 MIVA championships in his 28 years at OSU. It was the second straight season Kehoe won the award, and both he and his coach agreed the honors were only made possible because of the team’s effort.
“I can’t get the assists without my teammates putting the ball away, or passing a good ball,” Kehoe said. “Really I just credit it to all the work and time my teammates put in.”
“Each one means you’ve had a good group of guys … more so than what I have done this year,” he said.
Heine, outside hitter John Klanac and junior Shawn Sangrey were selected with Kehoe to the MIVA first team.
“We know where we got last year with a younger team. We’ve only got better with our summer lifts and summer playing,” Klanac said. “Everybody’s come back bigger and better.”
The Flyers of Romeoville, Ill., (20-10, 7-5) finished tied for third in the MIVA. With the fourth seed, the Flyers played fifth-seed IPFW in a quarterfinal matchup. They defeated IPFW, 3-2 (25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 25-27, 17-15) and were led by Jay Petty, who leads the team in points per set with 4.58.
The Buckeyes and Flyers split their two matches in 2011.
OSU won the first match March 4, 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-17). Sangrey recorded a match-high 20 kills, and Petty posted a team-high 14.5 points for Lewis, with a team-high 12 kills.
On April 2, the Flyers defeated the Buckeyes, 3-1 (25-27, 25-23, 25-19, 25-21). Heine posted a team-high 15.5 points with 15 kills, while Petty played a big role for the Flyers again with a match-high 23 points with 22 kills.
“I thought we were just a bit off,” Hanson said. “We wrapped up the conference the night before, and we just did not have that edge you needed from a mental perspective, which I know we’ll have (Wednesday) night.”
In the first match the Buckeyes outhit the Flyers, .370 to .233, and in the second match Lewis outhit OSU .342 to .246.
“The key will be serving and passing,” Kehoe said. “We just didn’t communicate well and didn’t focus on the first contact that we made.”
The Scarlet and Gray has won 17 consecutive matches at home over its last two seasons. OSU’s last home loss came on March 3 of last year in a 3-0 loss to ninth-ranked Penn State.
“Teams have a tough time coming in here because it’s such a big gym,” Kehoe said. “A lot of gyms we play in aren’t as big. The special awareness definitely plays to our advantage.”
Loyola-Chicago and Quincy face off in the other semifinal match Wednesday. If OSU defeats Lewis, it will play the winner of that match for potentially its fourth straight MIVA championship Saturday at St. John Arena.