COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio State University men's volleyball title defense began with a sweep (25-13, 25-23, 25-18) over King University (23-6), owners of the Conference Carolinas automatic bid into the 2018 NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship. The Buckeyes (24-5) move onto the `round of 6' and will face UC Irvine (21-9) on Tuesday (May 1) in Los Angeles at Pauley Pavilion.
Three-time conference player of the year Nicolas Szerszen was dominant from start to finish, drilling 14 kills at a .619 attacking rate with a lone error on 21 attempts. Blake Leeson, named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team in each of the last two seasons, got off to a hot start once again in '18. The Buckeye middle buried 11 of 13 error-free swings (.846) to go along with four block assists. Lost in the bright lights of Szerszen and Leeson's astronomical performances, Jake Hanes put together a 12-kill outing while attacking .588. Sanil Thomas steered the offensive unit to a .528 team hitting efficiency, dealing 39 assists on the evening. He also paced the squad with a half dozen digs and delivered a pair of service snipes.
The Buckeyes attacked no less than at a .500 clip in all three sets tonight:
🔥 Set 1 - .545
🔥 Set 2 - .538
🔥 Set 3 - .500
Szerszen tacked on four aces as well, running his career total to 236 and surpassing Loyola Chicago's Joseph Smalzer (2022-14) for third place on the all-time NCAA career service aces list. Evan Patak of UC Santa Barbara (2004-07) holds the top spot with 255 aces.
-- OSU Men's Volleyball (@OhioState_MVB) April 27, 2018
🌰 Ohio State improves to 15-22 (.405) all-time in the NCAA Tournament
🌰 Ohio State improves to 557-104 (.843) all-time inside St. John Arena
🌰 Ohio State improves to 1-0 (1.000) all-time vs. King University
SET 1: Sharing the evening with the NFL Draft's First Round, Ohio State Volleyball marched down the field and converted a two-point conversion before King was able to light the scoreboard following an 8-0 explosion from the Buckeyes. Thomas toed the baseline during the eight-point spurt, connecting on an ace for the fifth tally. King called a timeout and notched the next two points to cut its deficit to 8-2. That six-point gap was as close as it would get for the opening frame as Ohio State bolted to a 25-13 winner.
The Buckeyes sent back four Tornado attacks, utilizing the blocking boost to hold King at a .000 team hitting efficiency.
SET 2: A slobberknocker stanza came next, stuffed with 16 tied scores and five lead changes. Eight service blunders stunted Ohio State's ability to pull away while The Tornado offense rolled along at a .375 clip. The Buckeyes trailed late, 23-21, before rattling off four consecutive points to take the frame. After Szerszen delivered a kill to pull within one (23-22), Reese Devilbiss subbed in to serve. The sophomore out of Pennsylvania contributed four solid serves in a row for the set's closing remarks (25-23).
SET 3: Jakes Hanes came alive in the third, bouncing five of six swings for the kill. He was the key cog in an OSU offense which stayed hot and racked up 15 kills. The Tornado was not ready to end its season, however, elevating the offense (.348) and knotting the score at 11-11. Ohio State would double up King from there though, going on a 14-7 run to clinch the 'W.' Fifth-year senior Nick Laffin hammered home the final nail for point number 25.