April 5, 2016
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In front of its largest home crowd since 2012 and a national viewing audience on the Big Ten Network, second-ranked Ohio State (23-3) disposed of No. 11 Penn State (16-8) in three sets and just 93 minutes. The Buckeyes haven’t lost since Feb. 6, a span of over two months by the start of Saturday’s second-to-last regular season match vs. Lindenwood ( 7 p.m.).
Ohio State’s 15 consecutive wins compose the longest victorious stretch since the 2011 Buckeyes ripped off 17 straight en route to the NCAA National Championship.
Miles Johnson and Nicolas Szerszen combined for 31 of 41 Buckeye kills on the night. Johnson destroyed 18 kills at a .389 pace while Szerszen came in at .440 with 13 kills. Fellow pin hitter Christian Franceschi inflicted a high level of damage as well, terminating six of 13 attempts. An eight-block effort aided in limiting Penn State to a .181 attacking efficiency. Middles Driss Guessous and Blake Leeson each got in on half of the Buckeye rejections, both posting a solo stuff and three block assists. Gabriel Domecus roamed the defensive backcourt and picked up a team-high eight digs.
The Johnson-Szerszen duo was responsible for all 10 kills in the opening frame, attacking .444 together (10-2-18). Ohio State was also the beneficiary of six Nittany Lion serving blunders allowing the Buckeyes to remain within striking distance despite a sub-par offensive showing from the rest of the squad. Trailing 19-17 late in the period, Johnson drilled a kill and handed the ball over to serving substitute Peter Edwards. From there, Edwards toed the service stripe for six more rallies as Ohio State ran up a tab of seven straight points, two of which came on Edwards aces. Szerszen added the finishing touch on an emphatic bouncer from the back row to complete the comeback, 25-22.
Ohio State upped the ante offensively in set number two, swinging at a .515 rate (18-1-33). A four-point spurt mid-set turned a 12-10 deficit into a 14-12 upper hand the Buckeyes would not relinquish. Every time Penn State threatened the lead, Ohio State had an answer to remain in control. The last three points went in favor of the Scarlet & Gray, closing it out 25-20. The Buckeyes maintained their edge throughout the final frame, too, cruising to a 25-18 match-clincher.
At 13-1 in conference play, Ohio State is two wins away from capturing what would be its MIVA-best 25th regular season championship. Standing in the way is Lindenwood and Quincy this upcoming weekend (April 9-10). MIVA squads have won the NCAA National Championship each of the past two seasons, including an All-MIVA finals between Loyola and Lewis in 2015.