Feb. 7, 2016
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 7 Ohio State University men’s volleyball team fended off a pair of match-point opportunities for No. 14 Ball State (7-3, 2-0 MIVA) in the fifth set before ultimately falling on the Cardinals’ third attempt, closing it out 18-16 (14-25, 16-25, 25-23, 25-11, 18-16). Ohio State moves to 8-3 overall and 3-1 in Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association play.
Not to be lost in a tough losing effort, several Buckeyes posted noteworthy individual performances. Christian Franceschi etched his name into the all-time Ohio State record books. He opened with four service aces in the first set alone and continued his assault by gashing Ball State for three more aces by the end of the night. The seven total aces are tied for second most in school history, matching Pieter Olree’s total at Pacific back in 2001 (top mark is eight aces by Jason Tobkin vs. Princeton in 2011). Meanwhile, Miles Johnson had arguably as equal to if not a more impressive showing from the service stripe. Trailing 10-6 in the second stanza, Ohio State rattled off a whopping 12 consecutive points, fueled by Johnson’s five aces in the short stretch to pull ahead 18-10 with Johnson toeing the baseline for the duration.
Three different Buckeyes accumulated 17 or more kills, paced by Johnson’s 20 put-aways. He tacked on his five aces and a pair of block assists to reach a career-high 26 points. Blake Leeson and Nicolas Szerszen bounced 17 kills apiece, playing a large role in Christy Blough’s 59 assists.
It was a tale of two stories for the Scarlet & Gray; dominating the first two frames before witnessing a comeback flurry from Ball State which snatched away victory in an extended fifth set. A Buckeye blitzkrieg ensued in the opening set, attacking .500 and rolling 25-14. Leeson finished off six of eight sets sent his direction and Franceschi posted six offensive points (four aces, two kills) as well. Ohio State captured the first three points of the match, never relinquishing its edge in a 25-14 besting.
Leeson kept it coming in set number two, recording a flawless attacking line of five kills on five errorless swings. He combined with Johnson to run off an incredible 12-point scoring streak. In addition to the aforementioned five Johnson aces, the Buckeye duo combined for six kills as Ohio State went from down 10-6, to up 18-10 in a flash. Leeson ignited the OSU explosion with a kill at 10-7, pairing with Johnson for 11 of the dozen consecutive points. Ohio State would go on to a 25-16 triumph.
Franceschi emerged from intermission by kicking off the third set with back-to-back aces and it looked as if the rout was on. Ball State wasn’t having any of that, however, clawing back and surviving as 25-23 victors. The wind then completely escaped Ohio State’s sails in the subsequent set. Ball State blew past the Buckeyes, 25-11, to force a fifth frame.
Haymakers were exchanged in the fifth, resulting in 11 tied scores and four lead changes in the truncated period. Neither side could muster an advantage of greater than two points throughout. By set’s end it took 34 points to determine a winner. Consecutive Cardinal kills eventually closed the door though, breaking up a 16-16 stalemate as Ball State escaped Columbus with a conference victory in hand, 18-16.
Ohio State puts wheels to pavement next weekend, trekking to the state of Illinois for a pair of MIVA match-ups at Loyola (Feb. 12) and Lewis (Feb. 13).