Jan. 7, 2016
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The No. 6 Ohio State University men’s volleyball team dropped a four-setter to No. 5 UCLA (2-0) in the first of four matches at the Big Ten-Pac-12 Challenge hosted by Penn State University. Ohio State (1-2) is also set face No. 12 Southern California early Friday evening starting at 5 p.m. ET. The final Thursday tallies read – 24-26, 25-22, 25-22, 25-22 – in favor of the Bruins.
Nicolas Szerszen led all players with 24.5 points, 10 more than anyone else on either side of the net. His 21 kills and three service aces were accompanied by 10 digs and a block assist defensively to notch a double-double. The sophomore outside hitter took 45 swings and attacked .267 for the match.
The Buckeye middles were efficient in limited attempts as Driss Guessous connected on eight kills at a .467 clip (8-1-15) and Blake Leeson finished off a half dozen kills while attacking .308 (6-2-13). Gabriel Domecus averaged more than two digs per set, accumulating nine overall.
Set number one was a slugfest with neither squad mustering a lead larger than three points. The score sat tied on 15 different occasions, locked up at 1-1, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13, 15-15, 16-16, 17-17, 18-18, 22-22, 23-23 and 24-24. Back-to-back Bruin blunders then handed Ohio State a 26-24 on consecutive errors. Szerszen got rolling right from the get-go, delivering seven points (five kills, two aces) and five digs in the opening frame. Christian Franceschi, making his second consecutive start, performed admirably as well with three kills on just five attempts and two digs.
While the number of tied scores shrunk to eight in set number two, there were still four lead changes in the period. The final edge exchange came midway through, however, on a Michael Fisher kill pulling UCLA ahead 12-11. Ohio State remained within a lone tally at 19-18 before a 6-4 run ultimately ended the set 25-22.
Despite a .429 team hitting efficiency for UCLA in the third frame, the Buckeyes were able to hang around thanks in large part to seven Bruin service errors. Ohio State battled back from a 17-12 deficit and closed the gap to one at 23-22 late in the set. Subsequent kills by UCLA came next though and another set ended 25-22.
Christy Blough distributed 14 assists, half going in the direction of Szerszen, as the Buckeyes swung .310 in the fourth. Guessous was a favorite target of Blough’s sets, too, bouncing four of six errorless attempts. Szerszen’s 21st termination overall cut the Bruin advantage to 23-22. But ultimately, UCLA garnered a third straight 25-22 triumph and closed out the contest in four sets.
The Scarlet & Gray continue in the Big Ten-Pac 12 Challenge Friday at 5 p.m. ET, taking on the 12th-ranked Trojans of Southern California.