-- Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) January 8, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In collegiate men's volleyball's main event of the opening weekend, No. 1 Ohio State (2-0) took down No. 2 UCLA (2-1) in an entertaining four-round scuffle broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. The Buckeyes wrapped up the weekend by topping UCLA -- 25-22, 18-25, 25-21, 25-23.
Ohio State's winning streak - dating back to Feb. 6, 2016 - extends to 25 straight victories. The Buckeye win also clinched a 3-1 win for the Big Ten in the second annual B1G/Pac-12 Challenge. Penn State split the weekend while OSU picked up dubs over both USC and UCLA.
Reigning National Player of the Year, Nicolas Szerszen, landed more than a handful of haymakers in the OSU triumph; totaling a team-high 19 points on 17 kills and two service aces. The junior attacked .500 and also paced the Buckeyes digging seven balls. His two aces contributed to a nine-ace team tally which included a run of three consecutive service snipes by Christy Blough.
Speaking of Blough, the senior setter dished out 38 assists in steering the Buckeye attack to a .309 hitting percentage. He directly lifted the hitting clip by terminating each of three attack attempts as well.
Set 1: The Bruins began the night sending a serve off the mark and handing Ohio State a 1-0 edge promptly followed by Szerszen's seven-point stint at the service stripe. The Buckeye explosion started with back-to-back kills by Maxime Hervoir and concluded with subsequent aces for Szerszen victimizing UCLA's Micah Ma'a to go ahead 8-0.
That falling behind 8-0 feeling... https://t.co/lsfuscpwAD
-- OSU Men's Volleyball (@OhioState_MVB) January 7, 2017
Ohio State maintained its eight-point edge at 24-16 before a UCLA flurry poised a serious threat to the Buckeye upper hand. Six set-point opportunities were denied, causing head coach Pete Hanson to burn both timeouts in quick fashion. The second break in action came at 24-22 and was mercifully followed by Szerszen's fifth kill of the opening frame, a back row attack, slamming the door shut 25-22.
Set 2: It was the Bruins sprinting out of the gates in set number two, garnering a 5-2 edge. Ohio State quickly countered, however, to jump back on top 8-6 on a 6-1 run ending in a UCLA timeout. Momentum then swung back in favor of the visitors though as UCLA snagged 19 of the next 29 rallies to even the match at one set apiece as 25-18 victors.
Set 3: The Buckeyes lived and died by their aggressive serving prowess in the third frame. Committing eight service errors aided UCLA in overcoming a .136 team hitting percentage, but a streak of three straight aces by Blough fueled a 7-0 jolt to erase an 18-14 deficit and create a 21-14 edge. Blough's superior service work was surrounded by three Szerszen terminations. Blough would later take a ball on two, pounding the hardwood with a set-clinching kill at 25-21.
Set 4: Ohio State needed to combat self-inflicted wounds (eight service errors) and a personal onslaught from UCLA's Jake Arnitz and his eight kills at a blistering .636 hitting clip in the fourth set. Miles Johnson, who dominated the previous night versus USC, got back on track in the fourth and dropped in four kills on six errorless attempts. In the end it was, ironically, Arnitz delivering the final point for Ohio State on a miss-hit attack error at 25-23.
A quick turnaround awaits for the Buckeyes, hosting 10th-ranked and defending EIVA champion George Mason on Tuesday (Jan. 10) at 7 p.m. inside St. John Arena.