Lantern file photo
With four regular season games left before the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team sits in third place in the eight-team conference, 1.5 games back of first place Lewis University. The league’s regular season champion will be rewarded a bye during the tournament’s quarterfinal round.
In 2012, the Buckeyes received the tournament’s lone bye on a tiebreaker after both OSU and Lewis finished the conference campaign with a record of 9-3.
The last time the Buckeyes did not have the No. 1 seed was 2006, when they lost in the semifinals as the No. 4 seed against No. 1 seed Loyola of Chicago.
Loyola of Chicago sits in second this season, one game behind the Flyers.
Finishing at or near the top of the table will be crucial for OSU’s postseason success since tournament matchups are hosted by the higher seed.
The Buckeyes have a 10-1 record at home this season, with the lone loss coming in a sweep at the hands of Lewis on March 2.
Two of the Buckeyes’ remaining four league matches are on the road against teams of higher standing. OSU cannot afford to drop both matches if it wants to have a shot at earning the automatic berth into the semifinals.
Coach Pete Hanson’s squad begins its road trip against Lewis on Thursday night in Romeoville, Ill.
OSU senior setter Kyle Lawrence said he and his teammates have not forgotten about the Flyers victory in Columbus earlier this season, and they have been anticipating the rematch ever since.
“We have a countdown going on in our locker room to Romeoville, so it’s definitely something we’ve starred on our schedule for the rest of the season. I think we have a little bit of fire under our butts right now after that loss at home,” Lawrence said.
Lewis, meanwhile, is looking to regain its composure, coming off two losses in its last three conference matches.
Flyers coach Dan Friend said he believes his players have gotten back to the form they had earlier in the season when they won their first eight out of the gate in conference play.
“After last weekend, there were a few things we worked on in practice to get us into a better groove,” Friend said.
After Thursday night’s contest, the Buckeyes will make the drive to Chicago to face the Ramblers on Saturday. OSU won its previous match against Shane Davis’ men on March 1 in five sets at home.
After arguably its toughest week of the regular season, OSU’s schedule becomes much less threatening when it returns home on April 12 to play Quincy on back-to-back nights. The Hawks have only won four sets in league play and have no victories in 10 attempts against conference foes.
Like Lewis, OSU is trying to rebound from subpar play as well. The team’s last road trip netted two losses, as the Buckeyes were only able to take two sets combined against the Mastodons of Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne and the Cardinals of Ball State.
OSU (17-5, 7-3 MIVA) is currently ranked No. 11 by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. It is the same position the Buckeyes opened the season in before climbing as high as No. 6 in February. The team has not dropped out of the poll’s top 15 all season.
OSU senior outside hitter Nick Gibson said this time of year is generally full of exciting games.
“We’re looking forward to some good competition, some big matches. It’s going to take a lot. We lost to Lewis here, we’re looking to get a good win there and carry us into the conference tournament,” Gibson said.
The Buckeyes’ match against Lewis on Thursday is set to begin at 8 p.m.