COLUMBUS, Ohio – The top-ranked Buckeyes of Ohio State University shook off a first set defeat and marched back to win their 2017 season opener in four sets over Southern California (1-1). The Trojans took the first 25,-22, before Ohio State (1-0) rebounded with three consecutive set triumphs: 27-25, 25-18, 25-16. The Big Ten Network comes to St. John Arena on Saturday, broadcasting No. 1 OSU vs. No. 2 UCLA at 6 p.m. ET.
The Buckeyes racked up 13 blocks on the night, the highest team total since March 28, 2015 when Ohio State stuffed Erskine 18 times. Miles Johnson and Blake Leeson each got in on four block assists and posted a solo stuff on their own while Driss Guessous recorded four rejections. This same trio led the way offensively as well. Leeson successfully terminated all seven attack attempts for a flawless 1.000 hitting percentage, accompanied by fellow middle blocker Guessous’ six kills on 12 swings effort. Johnson picked up where he left off as the 2016 NCAA Tournament MVP, hammering home 15 kills at a .333 attacking rate.
Christy Blough divvied up 38 assists while pacing the Scarlet & Gray with eight digs. Ohio State posted seven aces overall, including freshman Andrew Hillman connecting for an ace on his very first collegiate trip to the service line.
SET 1: Ohio State committed 13 total errors in the first frame. The seven serving blunders and six attacking gaffes proved too much to overcome for the Buckeyes in a 25-22 setback. A five-block effort from the Trojans forced a healthy share of the OSU errors.
SET 2: Serving inaccuracies continued to the tune of seven more errors in the second, but Ohio State’s improved offensive production led to a better final result – 27-25 in favor of the Buckeyes. Johnson and Szerszen each delivered four kills as Ohio State doubled its team efficiency from .125 in the first set to a .250 clip in set number two – avoiding all USC blocking attempts. The Buckeyes raced out an early 8-4 edge, met quickly by a Trojan surge to pull back within a lone tally at 9-8. From there, neither side of the net would garner an advantage of more than three points in a tightly-contested period. Ohio State’s first two set-point chances were foiled before subsequent put-aways from Johnson and Szerszen broke up a 25-25 tie.
SET 3: All-square at 12-12, a Trojan service error jumpstarted a spurt pushing OSU ahead for good at 16-12. Johnson carried the Buckeyes with seven kills in the set before handing it off to junior transfer Maxime Hervoir to close it out with a set-clinching kill at 25-18.
SET 4: Szerszen got it going in the fourth, bouncing five kills on seven errorless strokes. An extended service stint from Guessous which included a pair of aces would virtually close the door, transforming a 16-13 lead into an insurmountable 21-13 upper hand. A few rallies later and it was all she wrote, resulting in a 25-16 final ledger.
St. John Arena re-opens its doors again on Saturday, wrapping up the 2017 AVCA Showcase & Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge at 3 and 6 p.m. ET. No. 13 Penn State facing USC starts the day and Ohio State vs. UCLA closes out the competition.
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