LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Ohio State was on the receiving end of the last punch thrown during a battle of men’s collegiate volleyball heavyweights, dropping a 16-14 fifth-set decision to No. 2 UCLA (7-0). The third-ranked Buckeyes (3-2) battled back from a set down twice to force the final frame.
Nicolas Szerszen and Jake Hanes combined for 39 of Ohio State’s 51 kills. Szerszen hit .311 on his 45 attempts, putting away 21 kills compared to seven errors. He added a dozen digs to record a double-double. Sanil Thomas was a double-double producer as well, making a team-high 16 digs and assisting on 46 kills.
SET 1: There were runs aplenty in the opening frame, starting with UCLA corralling the first five points to force a quick T.O. from the Buckeyes. Ohio State responded by earning eight of the next 11 rallies to even the ledger at 8 point apiece. Tables turned swiftly again when the Bruins ripped off 11 of the next 14 to build a 19-11 advantage. A sizable cushion would remain throughout the remaining 25-18 UCLA triumph.
The next three sets were a barrage of haymakers as both sides jostled for an upper hand. In total, there were 16 lead changes and the score sat tied on 44 separate occasions. Set five followed suit, filled with seven tied scores and four lead changes despite the truncated nature of a fifth set.
SET 2: Neither side distanced itself from the opposition by more than three points in this one. A final tally of 25-22 in favor of Ohio State matched the largest gap of the set.
SET 3: Leads of more than three points were nonexistent in the third set as well. Action spilled over into extra time when UCLA’s JT Hatch fended off an Ohio State set-point to pull even at 24-24. A subsequent OSU set point was thwarted as well thanks to a service mishap. The Bruins capitalized on the Buckeye gaffe and notched the next two points, moving ahead two sets to one.
SET 4: Szerszen carried the load in set number four, terminating seven kills on 12 swings with a lone error (.500). The remaining Buckeye lineup attacked in the negatives, riding their two-time National Player of the Week teammate to victory. Hanes finished off the frame, however, ripping an ace for the 26-24 winner.
SET 5: Hanes carried that momentum into Set 5, finding the hardwood on all four attack attempts. His final kill sparked a three-point spurt shoving Ohio State on top, 14-13, with a chance to steal the match in enemy territory. The home squad wasn’t having it though, coming right back with a three in a row of their own to secure a 16-14 win.
The Scarlet & Gray return to action Thursday (Jan. 25) for a home match versus No. 14 Saint Francis. St. John Arena opens again three days later (Jan. 28) when the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State come to town.