Driss Guessous went from redshirting his first year at Ohio State to starting every match and becoming one of the most influential players on the men’s volleyball team the next and is far from your average freshman athlete.
That’s because when it comes to experience, redshirt-freshman middle blocker Guessous’ coach Pete Hanson said his rivals anyone.
“Driss is a great athlete, but all of his experience is one of the reasons why he is having such a successful freshman year. He has played some great volleyball and is drawing from those experiences,” Hanson said.
Guessous started playing volleyball during his freshman year of high school at Loyola in Pasadena, Calif., where he was named a 2012 first-team All-American and led the team to a state title. The past two summers, he has played with the USA Volleyball and the Junior National Team, competed at the Federation Internationale De Volleyball and played in the Men’s U-21 World Championship in Turkey with Buckeye teammate and junior outside hitter Michael Henchy.
As an OSU Scholar-Athlete, Guessous said it has been a difficult adjustment from last season to find the time to stay on track with his schoolwork while traveling with the team.
“The hardest transition for me is trying to balance school and volleyball. Being a physics major and having to travel to matches all over the Midwest can be quite the challenge, but it keeps me focused on what my goals are and what I want to take away from college — a great education and, hopefully, a national championship,” Guessous said.
The Buckeyes have the 15th-best hitting percentage in the nation at .287, led by Guessous, who is ranked No. 1 in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association and fourth in the country for his hitting percentage of .446.
“Driss is our most consistent attacker. If we ever get into an offensive slump, we know that he has the ability to get us out of it,” redshirt-junior setter Peter Heinen said.
“Driss is one of our best offense weapons. He’s consistently killing balls for us,” Henchy said.
Hanson said for one player to be successful on the court, the whole team must work together. But when it comes to Guessous, he works hand-in-hand with freshman setter Christy Blough, to get set up for a kill.
“We have a setter who really understands that finding a way to get Driss the ball can really help the offense. Christy has really embraced that and does a good job of assisting Driss in a lot of opportunities,” Hanson said.
Beyond his contributions to the Buckeye offense, Guessous is a main contributor to the defense as well. He is ranked sixth in the conference in blocks per set with a .94 average. His position as middle blocker entails a lot, Hanson said.
“There is a lot of responsibility on a middle blocker from a blocking perspective, and as an attacker, to make some pretty instantaneous judgments, and being aware of everyone’s positioning on the court and the position of the ball,” Hanson said.
As Guessous’ familiarity with the team increases, he also will grow as a player, Hanson said.
“The more and more Driss and the passers and setters play together, the quicker and smarter his decisions will become,” Hanson said. “That will help him to continue to be more and more effective.”
After falling to No. 15 IPFW Wednesday 3-2, the Buckeyes are set to take on No. 12 Penn State Friday at 7 p.m. in Columbus.
Guessous said he is always looking to improve and understand that he has a lot to learn during these next few years as a Buckeye.
“I want to get better at all facets of the sport. That’s the best part about playing volleyball — no matter how good I am, I can always can be better. That is why I love the sport. I crave the challenge and that is what keeps me going,” Guessous said.