COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Top-seeded Ohio State stared at a 7-2 fifth-set deficit before capturing 13 of the next 19 points to end the night, sending home Ball State (19-10) and advancing to the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Tournament Finals (25-14, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 15-13). The Buckeyes (29-2) move on to their second straight MIVA Tourney championship match and will host No. 3-seed Grand Canyon (19-10) Saturday evening at 7 p.m. ET with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament up for grabs.
Ohio State picked up its 97th victory overall in 180 all-time clashes with the Cardinals dating back to 1968. The Buckeyes have faced fellow MIVA Tournament finalist Grand Canyon 17 times since the debut bout in 2010, winning 15 of 17 contests. The Antelopes pushed OSU to the brink earlier this season in Phoenix, however, as the second of two matches spilled into a fifth frame. Ohio State is in pursuit of what would be the 16th MIVA Tourney title in school history.
Set 1: The Wednesday night roller coaster ride launched with a lopsided 25-14 opening frame in favor of the Buckeyes. Ohio State blasted through the Cardinal defense, attacking .560 on 15 team kills. Five different Buckeyes recorded multiple kills in the set, including four apiece from Miles Johnson and Nicolas Szerszen. Blake Leeson shouldered the defensive load, getting in on three blocks to help limit BSU in a .080 attacking effort.
Set 2: It was Ball State up early in the second stanza, owners of a 12-9 edge. From there, the Buckeyes rattled off six of the next seven to go ahead for good at 15-13. Johnson and Szerszen combined for nine kills while Maxime Hervoir made a big impact with his half dozen digs. The two-point OSU margin maintained through set's end, wrapping up as a 25-23 winner for the Scarlet & Gray.
Set 3: Trailing 2-0 in Columbus did little to intimidate the Cardinals, climbing out of the same hole a year ago (Feb. 6) and handing Ohio State a five-set defeat. Ball State was up for the challenge once again, beginning by taking the third set, 25-23. The Cardinals dug a whopping 15 balls, frustrating Ohio State's attack in a .171 hitting performance. Super sub Mike Scannell was also a huge factor, delivering five kills on seven errorless swings after not playing in the first two sets. Matt Walsh lifted BSU, too, stuffing the Buckeyes three times, including the closing point for 25-23.
Set 4: Ohio State built considerable leads of 3-0, 7-3 and 15-11 in set number four. But the gritty Cardinals counterpunched again, quickly knotting the score at 16-all. Another large digs total, 17 to be exact, propelled Ball State to its second straight 25-23 upper hand.
Set 5: The Buckeyes would not be denied in the fifth. Despite the truncated nature of a final set, Ohio State managed to climb out of a 7-2 hole to secure its spot in Saturday's MIVA Finals. A blocking barrage fueled the comeback. Christy Blough and Leeson teamed up for a timeout-inducing rejection at 8-6. Blough then took matters into his own hands with a solo stuff tying the ledger at 8-8. The blocks kept coming as Leeson roofed Parker Swartz to break up an 11-11 stalemate. Fittingly, the dramatic affair came to end via another Buckeye block when Blough paired with Driss Guessous to send back a BSU attempt for the 15-13 final tally.
The NCAA Men's Volleyball Selection Show will be streamed on NCAA.com at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday (Apr. 23). Six teams will have a shot at hoisting the national championship trophy in Columbus, Ohio, on May 6.
Humphrey Highlights | Blake Leeson
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