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April 20, 2016

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The second-ranked and top-seeded Ohio State University men’s volleyball team moved one step closer to a slot in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to Saturday’s MIVA Tournament championship match with a 3-1 semifinal victory over McKendree University (11-14). The Buckeyes, owners of a 27-3 season mark and 19-match winning streak, will host No. 12 Lewis University (19-12) in the MIVA Finals (April 23) for the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA postseason.

Ohio State attacked over .400 in three of four sets and .356 for the match. The Buckeyes lit it up from the baseline as well, racking up 10 service aces. Points were also scored defensively at the net with a dozen OSU blocks, including six solo stuffs. Nicolas Szerszen, Miles Johnson and Christian Franceschi each accumulated double-digit points, posting 23.5, 21.5 and 15.5 tallies, respectively. Szerszen crammed the stat sheet with 19 kills, six blocks (three solo) and seven digs. Johnson rocked 17 kills and three aces while Franceschi was responsible for 10 kills and five aces.

First Team All-MIVA setter Christy Blough steered the ship, distributing 43 assists to go along with a team-high nine digs and a pair of aces and block assists.

Neither squad could muster a controlling upper hand in the opening frame until the latter stages. No lead of more than three points was built until Ohio State grabbed five of the final seven points to end the set, 25-20. Johnson and Szerszen bombed six kills apiece, combining for 12 kills at a .688 attacking rate.

Sixty-six volleys were needed to decide a Set 2 winner, ultimately ending 34-32 in favor of the Bearcats. Ohio State nearly overcame a whopping eight McKendree blocks in the period, but failed on four set-point opportunities. Back-to-back Bearcat aces eventually closed out the elongated set.

The haymaker exchange continued past intermission and into a 6-6 tie to start set number three. A Bearcat service error broke the tie and opened the floodgates. Ohio State not only went on a 12-1 run to go ahead 18-7 but also seized 44 of the next 63 points in consecutive lopsided sets — 25-12, 25-13.

Franceschi put on a show to wrap up the third frame. The serving wizard scorched McKendree to the tune of four consecutive aces, scoring from the service stripe with his fastball, changeup and lastly splitting a pair of Buckeyes for set point.

A 6-0 start to the fourth essentially sealed the deal, leading to a 25-13 triumph. Ohio State threw up five blocks by set’s end, adding in 11 digs to push McKendree into the red with an attacking efficiency of minus-.120. The Buckeye edge never dipped below five points the remainder of the evening en route to a 25-13 winner.