Men’s Volleyball: Ohio State begins postseason at Ball State
The Ohio State men’s volleyball team wants to set the record straight as they take on Ball State for the third time this season in the first round of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament.
The Buckeyes (9-9) split the midseason series with Ball State (11-7), but the Cardinals’ better record earned them the No. 4 seed in the tournament and the home court advantage in the first round. Ohio State head coach Kevin Burch said that he learned a lot from his team’s series with the Cardinals and that he hopes to put the knowledge to use.
“I think the serve and pass game is going to be critical in this match,” Burch said. “They always step up against us just because of the rivalry, so we’re going to have to step up too.”
Although Ohio State has been able to see different aspects of its game come together throughout the season, Burch said that he needs his young team to use what they’ve learned and put it all together for Saturday’s match.
Young players have been very important to the Buckeyes’ offensive attack, contributing significant numbers match after match. Freshman outside hitter Jacob Pasteur has been a pivotal element for the Buckeyes offensively, leading the team in kills on the season with 209.
Freshman outside hitter Sotiris Siapanis has also become a dominant player throughout the season. He is second in the MIVA in both kills per set and hitting percentage.
Burch said that while he has seen improvement on the stat sheets throughout the season from these younger players, that isn’t the only thing he has noticed getting better.
“They’ve learned and really bought into everything we’ve asked them to do all year,” Burch said. “Part of that growth has been gaining confidence that they can do all this stuff at the same time.”
The Buckeyes have struggled defensively at times throughout the season, so containing the explosive Ball State offense will be very important to keep the match from getting away from them.
Ball State has two of the top five leaders in kills per set in the conference — junior outside attacker Kaleb Jenness and graduate outside attacker Blake Reardon. Burch said that containing Jenness will take a conscious effort from his players.
“The key is going to be asking our guys to stay consistent on defense regardless of what the results are,” Burch said. “It’s going to take all six of our defenders to really be disciplined in order to give ourselves the best chance at success every play.”
Freshman setter Noah Platfoot said that the match will come down to who can defend better. In a battle of two high-powered offenses, being able to outlast and predict each other’s next moves will differentiate the two teams.
Ball State has the defensive advantage on paper thanks to senior setter Quinn Isaacson, who leads the conference in digs, and junior middle attacker Felix Egharevba, who earned defensive player of the week honors from the conference for his 16-block performance against No. 7 McKendree.
The Buckeyes hope to continue their late-season success defensively as they out-blocked and out-digged their opponents in both of their final two games of the regular season.
Platfoot said that regardless of the outcome on Saturday, he is happy to have been able to complete a season amid the pandemic.
“I don’t think anyone really expected to make it here with all the uncertainty,” Platfoot said. “Now that we’re here, I think everyone has one thing in mind, and we’re all excited.”