It was a thrilling end to a solid year of hard work by the Ohio State men’s volleyball team. The Buckeyes beat UC Santa Barbara in a five-set match May 7 to claim the program’s first ever National Championship title.
“It’s just been wonderful,” said Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson. “I’m so happy for the team and the kids and the coaching staff. It’s just been a great, great thing for Ohio State volleyball.”
Hanson said after the squad’s loss in last year’s semi-final match to Stanford, the players made it their mission to return to the finals again and move on to the championship match. The team did just that, moving past Penn State in Thursday night’s semi-final and going on to take the victory Saturday.
The win marks only the third time in history that a team outside of the West Coast has claimed the title, the other two titles both going to Penn State. The season-ending tournament was held in Penn State’s Rec Hall, which went through recent renovations in preparation for the event.
UC Santa Barbara gave it their all in the first of two semi-final matches on Thursday, May 5, beating out the No. 1 USC squad 3-1 (29-27, 24-26, 25-15, 25-18) to advance to the NCAA championship match. Sophomore Dylan Davis led the Gauchos with 15 kills and set an NCAA tournament record after posting an .882 hitting percentage. The record (.867) was previously held by current USC assistant coach Jeff Nygaard. Senior opposite Cullen Irons also had an impressive showing with 15 kills, and picked up six digs and a season-high six blocks on the defensive side. Fellow senior outside hitter Jeff Menzel finished with 13 kills.
The game marked UCSB’s fifth NCAA finals appearance and their second win in a row over USC. The squad upset the Trojans on April 30 in an intense five-set match to take home the MPSF Championship for the first time in school history.
Penn State saw their 2011 season come to a close on their home turf in the second semi-final game played against eventual champions Ohio State. The Nittany Lions fell 3-1 (25-18, 24-26, 25-22, 25-23), despite heroic efforts by junior Joe Sunder, who led both teams with 18 kills, and sophomore Nick Turko who posted seven kills with no errors.
Ohio State’s John Klanac posted a team-high 18.5 points with 16 kills, while Shawn Sangrey added 18 points with 15 kills and six assist blocks. The rival teams faced each other twice during the regular season, each squad walking away with one win apiece.
It was a thrilling match for those lucky enough to be in attendance and for television audiences alike. Ohio State and UC Santa Barbara went toe to toe for five sets, with the Buckeyes eventually squeezing out the win 3-2 (20-25, 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 15-9). Ohio State’s Shawn Sangrey recorded a career-high 32.4 points and 30 kills, while John Klanac had 18.5 points with 15 kills. UCSB’s Cullen Irons posted a team-high 17 points with 16 kills, while Jeff Menzel added 16.5 points with 12 kills. Ohio State’s Steven Kehoe was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said the crowd support was phenomenal in Penn State’s Rec Hall. “As much as there is a huge rivalry between Penn State and Ohio State, I think some of those blue and white fans became scarlet and grey fans for a couple of hours,” he said.
Originally published in July 2011