COLUMBUS, Ohio - St. John Arena will be the center of attention for collegiate men's volleyball in the opening weekend, hosting the dually-billed AVCA Showcase and Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. The event featuring four of the country's top programs includes four total matches and wraps up with top-ranked Ohio State facing No. 2 UCLA Saturday (Jan. 7) night live on the Big Ten Network (6 p.m. ET).
Friday, Jan. 6 - Columbus, Ohio (St. John Arena)
5 p.m. ET - #13 Penn State (0-0) vs. #2 UCLA (1-0)
Live Stats: GameTracker
Video Stream: Off the Block's Facebook Live stream
Ohio State carries a 23-match winning streak into the 2017 season
The Buckeyes last suffered an NCAA loss on February 6, 2016
Ohio State won 69 of 85 sets during the victorious stretch
BIG TEN/PAC-12 CHALLENGE SERVES AS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP PRECURSOR
This season marks the second editon of the annual Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge featuring Ohio State and Penn State facing UCLA and USC at the same site of the NCAA Championship. Last year, the four squads met up in Happy Valley and the quartet is scheduled to clash again next season at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, host of the 2018 NCAA Championship. The same playing surface which will be utilized for the NCAA Semifinals and Finals has been laid down at St. John Arena for use in the 2017 Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge (a.k.a. AVCA Showcase).
In the inaugural event a year ago, UCLA went 2-0 while both Ohio State and Penn State downed the Trojans of USC. The Buckeyes would go on to avenge their loss to UCLA, topping the Bruins in the NCAA Semifinals.
Ohio State begins its national title defense slotted as the top-ranked team in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll after receiving 23 of 24 first-place votes (the other going to UCLA). Three Buckeyes were chosen as Preseason All-Americans by Off the Block's 26-member voting committee comprised of head coaches and volleyball reporters from around the country. Miles Johnson and Nicolas Szerszen garnered First Team recognition while Christy Blough was selected for the Second Team.
League coaches voted Ohio State as favorites to win the 2017 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association championship. The Buckeyes own the most MIVA titles all-time, capturing their 25th regular season crown and 15th MIVA Tournament championship last season. The MIVA coaching crew also tabbed Nicolas Szerszen as the Preseason Player of the Year; joined by Christy Blough, Gabriel Domecus and Miles Johnson on the Preseason All-MIVA squad.
COLUMBUS - VOLLEYBALL CAPITAL OF THE MIDWEST
Ohio's capital city has laid claim to the title of `Volleyball Capital of the Midwest,' becoming the first site in NCAA history to host both the women's and men's collegiate national championship in the same academic year in addition to a long history of hosting amatuer volleyball events. The NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship was held Dec. 15-17, 2016 downtown at Nationwide Arena with the men's trophy being awarded May 4-, 2017 inside St. John Arena.
ALL HE DOES IS WIN, WIN, WIN
Assistant coach Kevin Burch has been on the coaching staff of an NCAA national championship program for six consecutive years. The 2016 crown completed a circle for Burch as the championship streak started with the OSU graduate serving as Ohio State's volunteer assistant coach during the 2011 title run. He has not gone an entire academic year without bringing home NCAA hardware as a collegiate volleball coaching staff member:
2015-16 - NCAA Men's National Champions - Ohio State (assistant coach)
2014-15 - NCAA Women's National Champions - Penn State (director of operations)
2013-14 - NCAA D-III Men's National Champions - Springfield College (assistant coach)
2012-13 - NCAA Men's National Champions - UC Irvine (assistant coach)
2011-12 - NCAA D-III Men's National Champions - Springfield College (assistant coach)
2010-11 - NCAA Men's National Champions - Ohio State (volunteer assistant coach)
BYU Denies Buckeyes in Fifth Set