LOS ANGELES — UC Irvine gave two-time defending-champion Ohio State all it could handle Tuesday night before the Buckeyes finally prevailed 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 16-14 in the first NCAA play-in to the National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Championship.
And the second play-in, which started shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern time, Harvard stunned the home team by winning the first set, but UCLA bounced back to win 23-25, 25-21, 25-11, 25-21.
It sets up Thursday’s semifinals, both of which will be streamed at NCAA.com:
— Ohio State (25-5) of the MIVA vs. Long Beach State (26-1) of the Big West, 4 p.m. Pacific
— UCLA (25-7) of the MPSF vs. BYU (22-6) of the MPSF, 7:30 p.m. Pacific
Ohio State-UCI: “They gave us everything they had and we gave them everything we had,” Ohio State coach Pete Hanson said. “In the end it comes down to making a couple of plays at the right time.”
At that happened when OSU’s Nick Laffin and Sanil Thomas blocked Aaron Koubi to give the Buckeyes a 15-14 lead in the fifth and then Nicolas Szerszen ended it with a kill.
Szerszen and Jake Hanes led Ohio State with 22 kills each. Szerszen hit .439, had 10 digs and two blocks. Hanes hit .341, had an incredible eight of his team’s nine aces, and seven digs.
“Jake’s been getting better and better every match,” Hanson said.
Maxime Hervoir added 13 kills, six digs and a block. Laffin had five kills in eight errorless swings and had two blocks. Ohio State hit .305.
“It was a great match and our guys have a chance to play another day,” Hanson said.
UCI, which never got swept this season, ended 21-10. The Anteaters hit .342.
Karl Apfelbach led with 15 kills, an ace, five digs and four blocks, one solo. Scott Stadick had 12 kills, hit .524 and had seven blocks, one solo. Matthew Younggren had 11 kills in 16 errorless swings to hit .688.
“I’m really proud of the effort tonight and the work put together by these guys,” UCI coach David Kniffin said. “Any time you come into a tournament, you want to demonstrate that you’re championship-relevant, and anytime you’re going deuce-game in the fifth, you’re making that statement.
“We play the game to win and it’s great to be on this stage, but this feels like unfinished business. I think there are some learning moments here for our guys.”
UCLA-Harvard: Harvard had 11 kills in the first set and a total of 24 in the next three sets as the Bruins took over.
Christian Hessenauer had a big-time night for UCLA. He matched his career best with 22 kills and hit .381 to go with six blocks. He added an ace and 10 digs. Jake Arnitz and Daenan Gyimah had 11 kills each. Arnitz had three blocks and two digs and Gyimah hit .500 — he had one error in 20 swings — and had an ace, a dig and six blocks. UCLA hit .390 and had five aces and 25 serving errors.
Harvard, which won the EIVA and was making its first NCAA appearance, ended its season 13-14. The Crimson finished with a hitting percentage of .165 after hitting .348 in the first set.
Matthew Ctvrtlik led Harvard with eight kills. He hit .300 and added six digs and two blocks. Trevor Dow and Erik Johnson had six kills each for the Crimson, who played just seven players the entire match. Harvard played without the services of All-EIVA First Team member Brad Gretsch due to a pre-match practice injury.
VBM photogs Stephen Burns, Ed Chan, and Michael Gomez are on hand for the week’s championship, their efforts shown here: