COLUMBUS, Ohio – Following a five-week absence of volleyball competition at St. John Arena, the venerable venue hosts not one but two Top-10 tilts this week when the ninth-ranked Buckeyes (17-4, 8-2 MIVA) square off with No. 6 Loyola (19-4, 9-1) and No. 10 Lewis (16-8, 7-3) on Thursday and Saturday respectively. Both crucial MIVA clashes are slated for 7 p.m. starts. Ohio State’s four-man senior class will be celebrated during Saturday’s `Senior Night’ festivities.
HISTORY WITH THE RAMBLERS AND FLYERS
The Buckeyes own an upper hand in the all-time series with both Loyola and Lewis, but dropped decisions to both earlier this season (March 22, 24) in Chicagoland. Ohio State has won 35 of 55 meetings against the Ramblers, including a 23-4 mark in Columbus. The OSU-Lewis series sits at 33-21 overall in favor of the Scarlet & Gray (20-10 at home).
DOWN THE BACK STRETCH THEY COME
Four conference matches remain for each team in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA). Loyola (9-1) and Ohio State (8-2) are the top two schools in the standings, followed closely by Lewis at 7-3. The Buckeyes control their own destiny entering the week:
• Win out and clinch at least a share of the MIVA regular season title
• Win out, including a three- or four-set win over Loyola, and clinch the MIVA Tournament No. 1 seed
KINGS OF THE MIVA
Ohio State has hoisted a league-best 26 MIVA regular season trophies, followed by Ball State and its 21 championships. The next three in order are Fort Wayne (6), Loyola (5) and Lewis (4).
St. John Arena, the home of Ohio State men’s volleyball, was treated the Buckeyes well over the last 50-plus seasons, serving as the stage for a 551-104 (.841) all-time home record.
Ohio State remains ranked inside of the AVCA Coaches Poll Top-10 for the 39th consecutive time this week. During that stretch which dates back nearly three years (Apr. 4, 2015), the Buckeyes were the No. 1-slotted team 41% of the time (16 of 39 polls).
Last time outside the Top-10: April 4, 2015
Last time unranked (Top-15): Final poll of 2014
CONFERENCE’S TOP OFFENSE
Ohio State’s offensive attack is the best in the MIVA, pacing all conference schools in hitting percentage (.337), kills per set (13.05) and aces per set (1.86). The Buckeyes are slotted Top-5 nationally in all of those statistical categories. On the defensive side, Ohio State also leads the league by holding the opposition to a .202 team hitting percentage (fifth best in the NCAA).
NO ONE COMPARES WITH NICOLAS SZERSZEN
Senior Buckeye Nicolas Szerszen is not only the NCAA’s active career leader in kills and service aces, he’s leaps and bounds ahead of the next closest player. His 1,524 kills are more than 300 clear of second-best Tanner Syftestad from UC San Diego at 1,161 kills. From the service stripe, Szerszen has sniped the opposition 215 times while Nick Drooker (King College) and Robert Poole (Mount Olive) rank second at 168 career service aces. The 215 career aces represent the fourth most in NCAA history and third highest mark during the rally scoring era (2001-2018).
MIVA PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Nicolas Szerszen is the latest Buckeye selected by the conference office as a Player of the Week winner, taking home back-to-back Offensive Player of the Week honors on March 20 and 27. This week marked the 11th MIVA weekly award of Szerszen’s illustrious career. Four different Buckeyes have been honored in 2018:
Jake Hanes (Offensive; Jan. 30)
Maxime Hervoir (Offensive; March 6)
Aaron Samarin (Defensive; March 6)
Nicolas Szerszen (Offensive; March 20, March 27)
`SUNNY’ STEERING THE OFFENSE
Sanil `Sunny’ Thomas sits atop the country’s assists per set rankings, dishing out an NCAA-best 11.03 helpers per set. The Buckeye offense is attacking .337 under Thomas’ direction, ranking fifth nationally.
`1-2′ PUNCH AT THE PINS
Nicolas Szerszen and Jake Hanes can both be found inside the NCAA Top-20 for points and kills per set. Szerszen ranks 13th (4.36 points/set) and 15th (3.60 kills/set) while Hanes is slotted 16th for both (4.33 points/set; 3.59 kills/set). In addition, Szerszen’s .401 hitting percentage is the ninth- best among all D I-II players.