Two-time champion Ohio State men, playing in for the play-in, take on King

0
Nicolas Szerszen-Nic Szerszen-Ohio State-Buckeyes-OSU-NCAA-playoffs-playin
Ohio State's Nicolas Szerszen will lead the Buckeyes against King Thursday/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Ohio State may have won the MIVA this season after winning the last two NCAA titles, but the sixth-ranked Buckeyes have been relegated to the play-in for the play-ins as the NCAA added one more team to the field for the NCAA Division I-II tournament.

“It’s strictly geography,” veteran Ohio State coach Pete Hanson said.

Ohio State plays host to King, champion of Conference Carolinas, at 7 p.m. Eastern Thursday and it can be seen on BTN Plus.

“It’s a lot about the cost effectiveness,” Hanson said. “Rather than fly King to Boston (to play EIVA champion Harvard), they can bus them to Columbus. So there are some cost issues that are associated with our tournament right now.

“We understood that going in.”

Hanson, ever gracious, added, “at the end of the day, you have play so many teams and win so many matches. We just have to play one more. The good news is it’s here in Columbus.”

Both teams are 23-5. The winner moves on to UCLA where it faces UC Irvine on Tuesday. UCLA gets Harvard in the other “quarterfinal,” as Long Beach State and BYU await the respective winners.

Ohio State is the fifth seed, King is the seventh seed, Hanson said, “and the sixth seed (Harvard) gets to go straight to Los Angeles.

“Is it truly fair? No, it’s not,” said Hanson, whose win over Loyola in the MIVA Tournament final was the 700th of his career.

He called it more growing pains for men’s volleyball and hoped for an eight-team bracket.

Ohio State has three players with more kills than anyone on King’s squad. Senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen had 354 kills (3.69/set) and hits .376, freshman opposite Jake Hanes has 345 (3.56/set) and senior outside Maxime Hervoir has 335 (3.35/set). Blake Leeson leads with 90 blocks, 18 solo, while Nick Laffin has 61 and Hanes 59. Szerszen, the flying Frenchman, is also a lethal server: He has 54 of his team’s 189 aces. As a team, Ohio State is hitting .340.

King advanced by beating Barton in the ConfCarolinas final. The Tornado is led by senior outside Jeff Sprayberry, who has 326 kills (3.70/set). Senior right side Kiel Bell has 267 kills (3.07) and junior middle Jon Wheaton, next in kills with 134, leads with 89 blocks, 13 solo. Their team has hit .286 this season and has one of the stronger ace-to-error ratios with 143 aces — 36 by Nick Drooker — and 322 errors.

This is King’s first NCAA appearance. The Tornado is coached by Ryan Booher, who is in his ninth season.

The two teams have never played.

“We just have to make the best of it,” Hanson said. “It’s not going to do us any good to complain or get us closer to playing good volleyball. So let’s just go play.”

LEAVE A REPLY