March 13, 2016
LONG BEACH, Calf. — The No. 5 Ohio State University men’s volleyball team capped off its cross-country trek by dethroning the No. 1-ranked Long Beach State 49ers (18-3) in a five-set thriller (24-26, 25-21, 15-21, 25-21, 15-13). Ohio State runs its season record to 17-3 and will return to the Midwest toting a nine-match winning streak.
Saturday night marks the Buckeyes’ first victory over the top-ranked team in the country since a previous West Coast triumph at Pepperdine on March 24, 1998.
Gabriel Domecus, Driss Guessous and Nicolas Szerszen were all named to the Asics Invitational All-Tournament Team with Szerszen earning MVP honors. Ohio State also topped No. 14 UC Irvine in the event.
Match statistics were relatively even across the board with the exception of Ohio State’s 10-dig advantage over Long Beach. Domecus and Miles Johnson each cracked double-digits, producing 13 and 11 digs, respectively. Guessous, Blake Leeson and Nicolas Szerszen shared the team lead with three total blocks apiece while Szerszen administered the majority of the offense; racking up 26 kills at a .435 attacking clip.
While the overall contest was clearly a tightly-contested one, the middle three sets were rather one-sided with only two combined lead changes in sets two through four. Set number one on the other hand logged some overtime as 50 points were needed to determine a winner. Long rallies filled the opening frame, powered by 26 digs in total (14 for OSU, 12 for LBSU). Neither squad could muster a lead of more than three points in a back-and-forth affair which ultimately went the way of the 49ers, 26-24.
After LBSU grabbed the first point of set number two, Ohio State ripped of four straight tallies and never looked back en route to a 25-21 match equalizer. Long Beach crawled back to within a lone point at 22-21 before a 49er service blunder was piled on by back-to-back aces from Johnson to seal the deal. Johnson’s first missile caused a pair of 49ers to run into each other. He then went back to well again with another rocket fired in the same direction and the gun-shy LBSU passers stood frozen with neither making a play on the ball.
Set number three was all Long Beach, highlighted by a 49er team hitting percentage of .500 (13-1-24). Their offensive outburst was paired with a sub-par effort for the Buckeye attack, leading to a lopsided 25-15 final ledger.
Szerszen lit it up in the fourth frame to the tune of nine points on six kills, three blocks (one solo) and a service ace. His first kill of the set handed the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead, an upper hand they would not relinquish. Guessous was a flawless 3-for-3 terminating his attack attempts and Ohio State extended the non-conference tilt into a fifth set. Just as he had started the set, Szerszen put an end to it as well with another bouncer for the 25th point (25-21).
The fifth set saw Ohio State out-hit LBSU .467 to .000, yet trailing 8-7 as the teams switched ends of the court halfway through. Five service errors aided the 49er cause and served as an obstacle to overcome for the Buckeyes. And Ohio State rose to the challenge time and time again inside the Walter Pyramid. Ohio State’s first hurdle came in the form of a 4-0 deficit to start the truncated period. The Buckeyes cleared that by battling back and pulling even at 8-8. Long Beach stayed strong, however, and maintained its vise-grip on the lead until the very last second. That is until Ohio State seized its first edge of the set on a wildly extended point culminated by a rejection from Christy Blough and Leeson making it 14-13.
Long Beach followed by burning a timeout and Ohio State returned to the court with a match-point opportunity. It only took one such chance for the Buckeyes to capitalize and drive home the final nail. Christian Franceschi delivered a strike from the service stripe, throwing the 49er pass-receipt off just enough. Blough got a good touch on the LBSU attack, leading to a give-and-go terminating connection between he and Szerszen for the win, 15-13.
— OSU Men’s Volleyball (@OhioState_MVB) March 13, 2016
Ohio State remains on the road next week, playing a lone match at Penn State on Saturday, March 19.