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Men’s volleyball: Christy Blough setting up Ohio State for success

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OSU senior Christy Blough sets the ball during a match against UCLA on Jan. 7 in St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-1. Credit: Courtesy of OSU Athletics

Senior Christy Blough might not play the most glamorous position on the Ohio State men’s volleyball team. However, as the setter for the No. 1 team in the nation that’s also in the middle of a 41-game win streak, he has shown how important his position is to his team’s success.

Blough has proved to be an invaluable part of the offense. He is in the top 10 in OSU history with 3,826 assists, averaging 10.99 assists per set.

A three-year starter at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, New York, Blough was primarily a hitter until he was forced to change positions.

“I had a shoulder injury coming into my sophomore year of high school and it made me so that I couldn’t hit for a couple of months,” he said. “So, my coach just had me setting, so that’s kind of how I got started.”

Even though Blough did not set exclusively until college, he is the glue to the Buckeyes’ offensive attack, said his teammate, junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen.

“He is the basis of all of our game, basically,” Szerszen said. “In volleyball, if you don’t have a good setter, you can’t swing well. If he plays good, the whole team plays good.”

Coach Pete Hanson likens Blough not to former Buckeyes on the volleyball court, but quarterbacks on the gridiron.

“He’s J.T. Barrett. He’s Braxton Miller,” Hanson said. “He’s the straw that stirs the drink in terms of running the offense, getting the ball to those guys in a good position where those guys can make all of the heroic plays.”

As a former quarterback himself, Blough feels as though volleyball is more of a team sport than football.

“I think, as a quarterback, there are some times that you can go out there and control more aspects of the game,” he said. “You get the snap and you decide where it’s going to go, as opposed to volleyball, where the pass dictates where you are going to go. You rely on the team a lot more in some aspects.”

One of the hitters Blough targets most often is senior outside hitter Miles Johnson.

“He’s so smart and it shows through his setting,” Johnson said. “He allows us to get a lot of one-on-one opportunities. I fully trust him in his choice in setting.”

After four years of playing together, Blough’s assists to Johnson are second nature. But that kind of relationship and level of trust takes time and countless reps.

“There are some times where I know where this guy is going to be, and he knows where the ball is going to. I know where he is going to end up,” Blough said. “I think when you watch film from three or four years ago, that might not be the case as much as it is now.”

Sophomore setter Sanil Thomas is looking to the senior as an example and a model for when he might take the starting setter spot next season.

“Christy is a great captain and a great leader, and I learn a lot from him in that way,” Thomas said. “Sometimes he may not vocalize the stuff that he is saying, but he leads by example and I love that, and I try to model him as much as I can.”

Until then, Blough is the centerpiece of the OSU offense, Hanson said.

“That is why we are one of the top offensive teams in the country,” Hanson said. “It’s because it’s Christy Blough’s show.”

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