Brittany Schock / Asst. sports editor
After earning three wins on the road and improving to a 9-4 overall, the No. 8 Ohio State men’s volleyball team will return to St. John Arena Friday for the first of two home games.
The Buckeyes defeated Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Friday in four sets in OSU’s first conference match of the season.
OSU is ranked first in the conference with No. 7-ranked Lewis (8-3, 2-1 MIVA) in second. IPFW ranks third.
“I want to say we’re used to it,” senior outside hitter Anthony Hock said. “People say a lot of things in their interviews about how they’re going to beat us and we just keep saying ‘no.'”
Ranking in the bottom half of the conference is Ball State (7-4, 1-2 MIVA). The squad from Muncie, Ind. will step onto the Buckeyes’ home court at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Ball State is a unique team,” said junior outside hitter Nick Gibson. “They are great at getting the ball over the net. Very scrappy, which can be frustrating at times.”
The Buckeyes will host the Carthage College Red Men (7-1) from Kenosha, Wis., at 3 p.m. Sunday. But coach Pete Hanson said he and his team are focused solely on Friday’s task.
“Ball State is a league game,” Hanson said. “You have to be good on your home court, and we’ve done well against them in the past. Every year, every new match is an opportunity to play well.”
Last weekend, the Buckeyes traveled to State College, Penn., to participate in the two-day Penn State Invitational.
Gibson tallied a match-high 14 kills on Feb. 4 against the Mount Olive Trojans.
OSU swept the Trojans without any help from the top three offensive players, including senior opposite Shawn Sangrey, senior outside hitter Mik Berzins and junior middle blocker Grayson Overman, who have a combined 391 kills on the season.
“With a team like Mount Olive, it’s a good chance to work on different lineups,” Gibson said. “Everyone’s fighting for spots. It’s that kind of year.”
Hanson and his coaching staff made the decision to exclude starters from the match.
“We wanted to rest Sangrey. He’s a guy we’re going to need later on in the season,” Hanson said. “We need other guys to get some experience too.”
The trio contributed greatly the night before in a four-set match against the Cal-Baptist Lancers. Sangrey led the team with 23 kills, another match-high.
Hock said the difference between playing at home and on the road is that other school’s gymnasiums are much smaller than St. John Arena.
“The fans are a lot closer and not afraid to get in our face,” Hock said.
As the Buckeyes return to Columbus for the MIVA home opener, their focus is on continuing to reduce service errors.
“Our offense is starting to find a good rhythm,” Hanson said. “Anytime you start to build chemistry, you allow the guys to play more freely.”