(LEFT) Photo courtesy of Loyola Chicago Athletic Department, (RIGHT) Cody Cousino / Photo editor
When the Buckeyes step into Gentile Arena in Chicago on Saturday and senior outside hitter Mik Berzins looks at the opposing team’s bench, he will see two people he knows quite well.
“I’ve grown accustomed to playing my brothers over at Loyola,” he said. “It’s a good rivalry.”
Berzins’ brothers, Kris and Dainis, have made the family name synonymous with volleyball at Loyola University Chicago, just as their father paved the way for Mik at Ohio State.
The tradition begins with OSU Hall of Famer, Aldis Berzins. The Olympic gold medalist and former outside hitter led the Buckeyes to four Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association championships and four NCAA Final Four appearances between 1975 and 1978.
Like father, like sons.
Kris, Mik and Dainis have played at the outside hitter position and have made strides within their respective programs. Even the youngest Berzins, sophomore Dainis, started in 21 sets last year and tallied 113 kills, according to Loyola’s athletic website.
“We all really support each other and want to have the other one do well,” Mik said. “I’m not going to cheer whenever Dainis gets a kill, but I wish him the best.”
Former all-American Kris Berzins amassed more than 1,000 kills and 500 digs in his career with the Ramblers, one of only seven players in school history to do so.
After a year on the professional circuit in Austria, Kris returned to Chicago as an assistant coach for the 2012 season.
Ramblers’ coach Shane Davis said he tried to recruit Mik, too.
“I thought we had him,” Davis said. “He took another look at Ohio State unfortunately, but we definitely wanted him.”
Mik said he chose OSU over Loyola because he could see himself succeeding in the versatile program.
“I came in as a libero, and I got the opportunity this year, and a little bit last year, to play some outside hitter,” he said. “Ohio State was the best place for me to go.”
Mik has helped propel the Buckeyes to an 11-4 record with 120 kills, 10 service aces and a 0.928 serve percentage so far this season.
He also has the most career digs in school history with 787.
OSU’s coach Pete Hanson describes Mik as a passer, defender and server, but not one to be distracted by the family feud that awaits him this weekend.
“Mik does a great job for us,” Hanson said. “He’ll be in a good frame of mind in terms of Ohio State volleyball.”
The Buckeyes are 28-13 on the series against conference rival Loyola, and are on a five-match winning streak. The No. 14-ranked Ramblers have fared better at home, however, with a 9-7 record against OSU there.
Davis, who shared the MIVA Coach of the Year award with Hanson in 2010, said that he is most looking forward to “all the hype” surrounding the match.
“The two teams, we have a lot of history together,” he said.
The trio from Brinklow, Md., will reunite Saturday after OSU makes a stop in Romeoville, Ill., to face No. 7-ranked Lewis on Thursday. Both matches are set to begin at 7 p.m.