Student section to make postseason debut Thursday at St. John Arena
Make no mistake about it, men’s volleyball crowds at Ohio State will never be confused with the factions that pile into Ohio Stadium for football games or jam into Value City Arena for basketball tip offs. But what Buckeye men’s volleyball followers lack in numbers they make up in enthusiasm.
Enter the Scarlet Setters, a volleyball specific division of the Ohio State student organized Block “O” association of supporters for Buckeye sports teams.
“This is the first year we have incorporated the volleyball teams,” Matt Ripley, currently the Block “O” officer in charge of the Scarlet Setters, said. “At the first women’s game in the fall, the place was electric.
“We try as much as we can to create an atmosphere like the “Shoe” (Ohio Stadium) and at the “Schott” (Value City Arena). Obviously, our numbers are not quite as big, but what we lack in quantity, we certainly make up in quality.”
The Scarlet Setters’ recent peak still only totaled about 20 members, but they certainly do not go without notice.
Each match the mass assembles behind the opposing team and focuses on not-so-subtle methods of distracting the other team’s server. As teams switch sides after each completed game, so do the Setters. Their migration has become a favorite for fans and players.
“I think part of their main objective is to try and get in the heads of our opponents and I think it works,” Daniel Mathews, the 2008 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Player of the Year, said. “Having played in places with intense crowds, I know how it goes. It’s nice to know we have the support and it is infectious, that sort of enthusiasm.”
The Setters also do not hold back on their attire, typically going above and beyond the conventional Ohio State hoodie or tee. According to Ripley, the cheering section has something up its sleeve for the MIVA semifinals vs. Loyola-Chicago at 7:30 p.m. in St. John Arena Thursday.
“We have something really special planned,” Ripley said. “Without going into detail, I’ll just say Loyola will know they are in our house.”
The Setters were not as fortified at the beginning of the season.
“It started with only about five of us,” Josh Friedman, the Block “O” officer who initiated the Scarlet Setters, said. “Every game an average of one person would join us and we have caught momentum from there.
“Everybody realizes how much fun we have with it and they start to buy into what we do and then start to get into the sport. I feel that is our job.”
The operation has built enough steam to usher in a new era in the more than 70 years of Block “O” at Ohio State.
“This is the first time ever in any sport Block “O” has gone to the postseason and supported as an official (organization) event.” Friedman said.
In addition to Ripley’s plan to up the ante with eye-catching playoff get-ups, he’ll use his voice to lead cheers that, in his estimation, will indeed impact the outcome in Ohio State’s favor.
“Jim Tressel (Ohio State football head coach) says the influence of Block “O” is worth at least a touchdown every game,” Ripley said. “In volleyball, I like to think our impact is worth at least 15 points a night.
“My greatest joy is going up to the team after the game and them saying, oh, we loved what you did today.’ It’s that connection with the players. The fact that they show they appreciate you. That’s the best part.”
Freidman, Ripley and the rest of the Scarlet Setter contingent hope to carry that spark into the weekend by cheering the Buckeyes past Loyola and into the conference championship match vs. either Ball State or Lewis at 7 p.m. in St. John Arena.
“This is our first year,” Ripley said. “There is no glass ceiling on this. We are going to go nowhere but up with this.”
~ Pat Kindig, OhioStateBuckeyes.com
** Fans can watch live streams of all MIVA tournament games Thursday and Saturday on Buckeye Vision at OhioStateBuckeyes.com **