In the midst of a four-match winning streak, the No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes are set to see how they stack up against the nation’s best.
The Buckeyes (4-3, 2-0) are scheduled to travel to Chicago to take on No. 1 Loyola Saturday at 5 p.m.
OSU snagged a pair of conference victories last weekend, beating Quincy in straight sets and then Lindenwood in a 3-1 decision.
The Ramblers (6-1, 0-0) lone loss came Jan. 4 against then-No. 11 USC and are led by redshirt-senior opposite Joseph Smalzer, who was named First-Team All-American last season after leading the country in service aces with 74.
“(Loyola) has the best server in the nation,” junior outside hitter Michael Henchy said of Smalzer. “We’ve done lots of drills to help us slow him down.”
The Ramblers rose to No. 1 in the rankings after wins at Sacred Heart and No. 13 Harvard last weekend.
“It would be very exciting to be the team to knock them down from the top,” redshirt-junior setter Peter Heinen said.
The Buckeyes are familiar with the “weapons” Loyola has, and the team is prepared strategically as well, Henchy said.
Freshman outside hitter Gabriel Domecus said that even though they will be going against other top schools later in the season, this match will be one of the biggest matches of the season.
“This is a conference matchup, and Loyola happens to be the top team in the country,” Domecus said. “This will prove that we have the ability to hang with all the teams in the country.”
OSU coach Pete Hanson said the team has already been exposed to top competition early in the season — in Hawaii — which has prepared them for yet another match on the road.
“It’s unfortunate that the first four times we have played top teams this season have all been on the road, instead of in our own building, but it is what it is, and eventually those teams are going to come to us, so we just have to bide our time,” Hanson said.
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