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Men’s volleyball team prepares for MIVA Tourney finals against Loyola-Chicago

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Ohio State (23-6, 11-1) is battling for a major conference win against the second-seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (21-7, 9-3).

On April 1, the Scarlet and Gray defeated Loyola-Chicago, 3-1, in Columbus to clinch the regular-season Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association title. At 7 p.m. Saturday in St. John Arena, the Buckeyes face the Ramblers in the MIVA Tournament finals.

The Buckeyes weapon, redshirt senior Steven Kehoe, was named first team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

The top-seeded Buckeyes defeated the Lewis University Flyers in the semifinals Wednesday, and coach Pete Hanson said Lewis’ similarity to Loyola makes for a favorable matchup.

“Loyola is pretty similar to these guys (Lewis),” he said. “They’re going rely on one or two guys, and if we can control those guys we’re going to be in good shape.”

A win for OSU would mark its fourth consecutive MIVA Tournament Championship.

OSU has faced Loyola twice this season, and both times, OSU won.

In their first matchup March 5, the Buckeyes took first place in the MIVA, taking the victory in four sets. Redshirt senior Kevin Heine led the way with a team-high 18 points and a season-high 16 kills. Loyola-Chicago’s Joseph Smalzer led the match with 19 points.

Kehoe’s 43 assists and three service aces led the match, and OSU posted an 11-2 margin in service aces.

In their second meeting, Kehoe served for a career-high five aces, and Heine posted 10 assist blocks, which tied his career high for assists and total blocks that he set in 2008 against UC Irvine.

Junior Mike Bunting led the Ramblers with 18 kills in Loyola’s 3-1 win against sixth-seeded Quincy in the MIVA Tournament semifinals. The Ramblers’ win marked their eighth win in their past 10 matches.

“I think we came out with a lot of energy, and we have to do that again,” Kehoe said Wednesday. “We have to play together as a team and keep our confidence about us.”

This tournament matchup is a chance for redemption for the Ramblers. Loyola faced OSU in last year’s MIVA Tournament Championship, and the Buckeyes came back from a 1-2 match score to beat the Ramblers, 3-2, in Columbus.

“Game one we have to step it up — they’re going to be gunning for our throats,” junior opposite Shawn Sangrey said. “We have to play harder and we have to play like game two through four, starting in game one.”

Saturday’s winner advances to the 2011 NCAA Final Four.

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