Lantern file photo
Last season ended in bitter disappointment for the Ohio State men’s volleyball team, the 2011 national champions, when it failed to make it to the NCAA tournament after a loss in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament.
The loss sent the team into a bit of a transition phase during the off-season. Team leaders Shawn Sangrey, Mik Berzins and Anthony Hock were gone, and new players needed to step into the spotlight for coach Pete Hanson’s squad to succeed.
“We’ve got some young guys playing,” Hanson said, “and I don’t mean necessarily they’re all freshman and sophomores, but we’ve got some young guys that just don’t have a lot of experience.”
As was perhaps clear during this past weekend’s Outrigger Tournament in Hawaii, relying on youth has its risks, but the long-term payoff is well worth the negatives for Hanson.
“The only way you get these guys to understand is to put them in those kind of situations,” Hanson said.
“You’re going to win a few, and you may lose a few, but hopefully they are going to figure out over time how they have to perform night in and night out.”
One of those young players, sophomore outside hitter Michael Henchy, said he believes last season’s finish helped bring the team closer together.
“We have banded together after witnessing last year’s disappointment,” Henchy said. “We know what it’s like to fall short on expectations and have a tougher edge to us than we did last year.”
Despite a disappointing start to the season, the mood in the locker room might be upbeat as ever, with the belief that this team has all the tools to make it back to the national championship.
“They even have a countdown there on the green board talking about ‘Hey, how many days is it until the national championship tournament,'” Hanson said.
The road to the national championship first runs through the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association and the No. 12 Lewis University Flyers, the team that ended the Buckeyes title defense last season.
Lewis (1-4), which the Buckeyes are set to play at home March 2, started the year against three teams ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s top 15. Lewis, though, might remain the greatest threat to OSU for the MIVA championship this season.
Redshirt sophomore setter Peter Heinen was one of the players who had the burden of following in the footsteps of the 2011 national title squad.
“Last year we did have a little chip on our shoulder, which was not always a good thing,” Heinen said.
“This year we are coming in ranked third in our conference, which I am excited about because I think it gives us extra motivation.”
Recent struggles may show this team isn’t quite ready to reach the lofty heights of 2011, but some members of the team expect a late season run once the squad learns what it is like to play together.
“I believe that we have the potential to be one of the most athletic and exciting teams to watch once we hit our groove,” Heinen said.
OSU is set to play St. Francis Sunday in Loretto, Pa.