A 10-set weekend for the Ohio State men’s volleyball team resulted in a split on the road against two non-conference teams, a drop in the NCAA rankings and a 13-6 record in the last matchups before finals week.
The No. 9-ranked Buckeyes defeated St. Francis Friday before falling to No. 6-ranked Penn State Saturday night.
Head coach Pete Hanson said he is concentrating on how his team will balance volleyball and their studies as the quarter winds down.
“As we get into that week of finals when we don’t practice for four or five days, that’s going to be a nice break for the guys physically,” he said. “How rusty do you become in four or five days?”
Like a well-oiled machine, the Buckeyes took to the court to round out the last weekend they would play before a two-week period of minimal practice and no matches.
Saturday, the Nittany Lions came out strong, pushing the lead to as much as eight, taking the first set, 17-25.
OSU never got ahead in the first set.
A kill from senior opposite Shawn Sangrey tied the second set at five when redshirt junior middle blocker John Tholen assisted him on a block to take the lead.
PSU battled back and when the score tied again at nine, a four-point drive gave the Nittany Lions an advantage that the Buckeyes were unable to overcome. They took set two, 25-19, on a kill by sophomore outside hitter Peter Russell.
Russell was one of three Nittany Lions to tally more than 10 kills in the match.
Faced with the possibility of being shut out by PSU for the second time this season, the Buckeyes worked to turn the game around by winning the next two sets, 29-27 and 25-22.
The deciding fifth set was largely in favor of OSU until the score tied at 13. An attack error from Sangrey put PSU at set point and Hanson was forced to call a timeout.
Out of the break, Penn State junior opposite Tom Comfort delivered a kill to seal the match, 13-15, for the Nittany Lions.
In Friday night’s action in Loretto, Pa., the St. Francis Red Flash vanquished a 1-2 advantage to the Buckeyes, who went on the win the match, 3-2.
Sangrey posted a match-high 33 kills against St. Francis, topping his career-best record by three.
In addition to Sangrey, senior outside hitter Mik Berzins led OSU with 14 kills and a match-high of 11 digs.
Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Jonathan Newton appeared in four sets to total eight on the season.
Newton earned a .333 attack percentage and five assisted blocks.
At 1-2, the Buckeyes delivered a punishing 25-14 victory in the fourth set to force the match into a five-set conclusion.
The score tied five times in the final set. At 10 all, the Scarlet and Gray put up three consecutive points to take the lead.
A Sangrey kill and a ball handling error in their favor gave the OSU the set, 15-11, and the match.
The Buckeyes’ new priority will be hitting the books instead of the gym.
“When you factor in finals week and taking tests, we’re not going to be able to practice all the time,” Hanson said. “We’ve got to stay pretty focused for these next two weeks.”
OSU will continue its time on the road when it travels to Muncie, Ind., March 18 to take on conference foe Ball State (10-5, 2-3 MIVA). The match is set to begin at 5 p.m.