Buckeyes escape Ball State, Grand Canyon upsets Lewis

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Ohio State libero Gabriel Domecus gets the pancake against Ball State/Ohio State Athletics, Walt Middleton

The MIVA semifinals provided more drama Wednesday night than anyone could have imagined.

Second-ranked and top-seed Ohio State escaped No. 11 and fourth-seed Ball State 25-14, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 15-13 in Columbus after trailing 7-2 in the fifth.

And No. 14 and third-seed Grand Canyon stunned No. 7 and second-seed Lewis on its home court 25-27, 25-18, 18-25, 25-19, 16-14.

It sets up a Saturday-night final in Columbus with the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament field of six on the line.

Two other NCAA men’s Division I-II leagues have semifinals on Thursday.

In the EIVA, top seed and 11th-ranked Penn State (19-10) plays host to fourth-seeded Princeton (12-13) and second-seeded Saint Francis (15-14) is home for Sacred Heart (15-10).

In the regular season, Penn State beat Princeton in five sets in both their matches. SFU beat Sacred Heart in four in both their matches.

In the MPSF, Long Beach State (25-3), No. 1 in the nation and the top seed, is home in its Pyramid to No. 5 UC Irvine (20-6), the fourth seed. Earlier on the same court, third-ranked and second-seeded BYU (24-3) plays the third seed, fourth-ranked Hawai’i (25-4).

Long Beach swept UCI in Irvine and then beat the Anteaters in four in Long Beach. BYU swept Hawai’i in both their meetings.

Nicolas Szerszen of Ohio State University blows the ball through the Ball State block of Parker Swartz, left, and Connor Gross/Ohio State Athletics, Walt Middleton
Nicolas Szerszen of Ohio State University blows the ball through the Ball State block of Parker Swartz, left, and Connor Gross/Ohio State Athletics, Walt Middleton

Buckeyes move on: Ohio State swept Ball State in both their regular-season meetings, but this one was one for the ages as the home team improved to 29-2 and Ball State’s season ended 19-10.

In the fifth set, blocking was the key for the Buckeyes as setter Christy Blough had two, including a solo that brought his team into an 8-8 tie. Blake Leeson, who had won earlier in the set, had a solo of his own that gave Ohio State a 12-11 lead. Blough and Driss Guessous ended it with another block.

Coach Pete Hanson, whose Buckeyes won it all last year, credited Ball State’s serving in the third and fourth sets for forcing a fifth set.

“And they’re a good defensive team and that created momentum for them,” Hanson said. “And it kind of frustrated our guys a little bit. You just have to keep playing through that and you have to have the mindset that if, ‘You’re going to dig mine I’m going to have to dig yours.’ And we didn’t have that mindset for a while. If we didn’t kill it we got frustrated and stopped playing a bit and they gained some momentum.

“It was a tough match.”

He laughed.

“It took us to the distance to figure it out.”

Miles Johnson led Ohio State with 15 kills and hit .204. He had one of his team’s five aces and four of its 19 errors. He had six digs and three blocks. Nicolas Szerszen, named the MIVA player of the year earlier this week, had 14 kills but hit .163. He added two aces, four errors, seven digs and three blocks. Maxime Hervoir had 11 kills, hit .269, to go with an ace, two errors, 11 digs and four blocks, one solo. Guessous had eight kills and hit .538 for a team that hit .252 and had four blocks. Leeson had four kills and hit .417, he had five errors and seven blocks, one solo.

“I thought Nick was good early and Miles was good late,” Hanson said.

Ball State got 14 kills from Blake Reardon, who hit .100 and had five of his team’s 20 service errors. Matt Walsh had 12 kills and hit .579, had one of his team’s five aces and four of its errors. He had six blocks, including Ball State’s only solo. Ball State, which hit .176, got nine kills from Matt Szews, who hit .065. He had two aces and five errors, 11 digs and six blocks. Mike Scannell had seven kills.

Big victory for GCU: The Lopes are in a new place. After losing to Lewis the in the MIVA Tournament each of the past four years, Grand Canyon finally broke through, moving on to the title tilt at Ohio State.

Grand Canyon, playing for the MIVA title for the first time, improved to 19-10, while Lewis ended it season 23-7.

In the fifth set, Lewis scored four points in a row to pull ahead 14-13. But Shalev Saada tied it with a kill, GCU took the lead on a kill by Matthew Kinnebrew and Saada ended it with another kill.

Grand Canyon, which hit .320, got 14 kills from Kinnebrew, who hit .206. He had five of his team’s 10 aces and nine of its 27 errors. He added seven digs and three blocks. Saada had 13 kills and hit .333. He had three errors, four blocks and seven digs. Cody Williams, who hit .304, and Drake Silbernagel, who hit .500, had 12 kills each for the Lopes. Williams had an ace and five errors, three blocks — one solo — and seven digs. Silbernagel had two aces, four errors, three blocks and four digs.

Lewis was led by Trevor Weiskircher, who had 15 kills, hit .321, had one of his team’s three aces and one of its 21 errors, three blocks and six digs. Mitch Perinar had 14 kills and hit .205. He had two errors, three blocks and three digs. Ryan Coenen had 12 kills, hit .125, an ace, three errors, three blocks and six digs.

USC home on the beach: The top-ranked and unbeaten Trojans (26-0) play host Thursday to No. 5 Long Beach State (23-5) and CSU Bakersfield (1-13). LBSU also plays Bakersfield.

USC ends its regular season Saturday when it entertains Cal Poly and No. 2 UCLA. Defending-NCAA-champion USC has won 56 matches in a row.

N. Korean nuclear volleyball: The New York Times has a story about satellite images showing volleyball games being played by a nuclear test site.

“It suggests that the facility might be going into a standby mode,” Joseph Bermudez told reporters on a conference call organized by 38 North, a research institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. “It also suggests that these volleyball games are being conducted with the North Koreans knowing that we’ll be looking and reporting on it.”

And so we have. Click here for the NYT story.

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