Ohio State 3, Ball State 2
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Top-seeded Ohio State stared at a 7-2 fifth-set deficit before capturing 13 of the next 19 points to end the night, sending home Ball State (19-10) and advancing to the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Tournament Finals (25-14, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 15-13). The Buckeyes (29-2) move on to their second straight MIVA Tourney championship match and will host No. 3-seed Grand Canyon (19-10) Saturday evening at 7 p.m. ET with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament up for grabs.
Ohio State picked up its 97th victory overall in 180 all-time clashes with the Cardinals dating back to 1968. The Buckeyes have faced fellow MIVA Tournament finalist Grand Canyon 17 times since the debut bout in 2010, winning 15 of 17 contests. The Antelopes pushed OSU to the brink earlier this season in Phoenix, however, as the second of two matches spilled into a fifth frame. Ohio State is in pursuit of what would be the 16th MIVA Tourney title in school history.
Set 1: The Wednesday night roller coaster ride launched with a lopsided 25-14 opening frame in favor of the Buckeyes. Ohio State blasted through the Cardinal defense, attacking .560 on 15 team kills. Five different Buckeyes recorded multiple kills in the set, including four apiece from Miles Johnson and Nicolas Szerszen. Blake Leeson shouldered the defensive load, getting in on three blocks to help limit BSU in a .080 attacking effort.
Set 2: It was Ball State up early in the second stanza, owners of a 12-9 edge. From there, the Buckeyes rattled off six of the next seven to go ahead for good at 15-13. Johnson and Szerszen combined for nine kills while Maxime Hervoir made a big impact with his half dozen digs. The two-point OSU margin maintained through set's end, wrapping up as a 25-23 winner for the Scarlet & Gray.
Set 3: Trailing 2-0 in Columbus is did little to intimidate the Cardinals, climbing out of the same hole a year ago (Feb. 6) and handing Ohio State a five-set defeat. Ball State was up for the challenge once again, beginning by taking the third set, 25-23. The Cardinals dug a whopping 15 balls, frustrating Ohio State's attack in a .171 hitting performance. Super sub Mike Scannell was also a huge factor, delivering five kills on seven errorless swings after not playing in the first two sets. Matt Walsh lifted BSU, too, stuffing the Buckeyes three times, including the closing point for 25-23.
Set 4: Ohio State built considerable leads of 3-0, 7-3 and 15-11 in set number four. But the gritty Cardinals counterpunched again, quickly knotting the score at 16-all. Another large digs total, 17 to be exact, propelled Ball State to its second straight 25-23 upper hand.
Set 5: The Buckeyes would not be denied in the fifth. Despite the truncated nature of a final set, Ohio State managed to climb out of a 7-2 hole to secure its spot in Saturday's MIVA Finals. A blocking barrage fueled the comeback. Christy Blough and Leeson teamed up for a timeout-inducing rejection at 8-6. Blough then took matters into his own hands with a solo stuff tying the ledger at 8-8. The blocks kept coming as Leeson roofed Parker Swartz to break up an 11-11 stalemate. Fittingly, the dramatic affair came to end via another Buckeye block when Blough paired with Driss Guessous to send back a BSU attempt for the 15-13 final tally.
The NCAA Men's Volleyball Selection Show will be streamed on NCAA.com at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday (Apr. 23). Six teams will have a shot at hoisting the national championship trophy in Columbus, Ohio, on May 6.
Grand Canyon 3, Lewis 2
ROMEOVILLE, ILL. – Fifth time is the charm for the Grand Canyon men's volleyball team. For the fifth consecutive season, the Lopes traveled to face the Lewis Flyers in the MIVA Playoffs. For the first time, GCU emerged with the win. With the victory, the Lopes will play in the MIVA Playoff finals for the first time in program history. GCU improves their record to 19-10 and Lewis ends their season with a 23-7 record.
Both teams played with a bit of nerves at the beginning of the first set, as they combined for seven straight errors to open the contest. The teams kicked the nerves and play became reminiscent of how the series has been all season. With the score tied at 25, Lewis knocked down two straight kills to take the set by a 27-25 score.
GCU dominated the second set from start to finish. Matthew Kinnebrew opened Set 2 with two aces, and the Lopes later knocked down three straight kills to force Lewis into a timeout down 2-7. Grand Canyon extended its lead to 18-12 on a kill by Shalev Saada, and the outside hitter finished off the set with another two straight kills. The Lopes took the second set with a decisive 25-18 score.
In the third set, the Flyers earned a dominant win of their own. Saada began the set with a kill but GCU fell behind early and never regained the lead. Lewis recorded 12 kills in the set and earned a 25-18 win.
The momentum shifted again in Set 4, this time in favor of the Lopes. Cody Williams started things off with a kill and GCU continued to stretch their lead. The Lopes maintained a two-to-three point advantage before the attackers took over. Drake Silbernagel knocked down two huge kills during the stretch, including the final point, to finish the set 25-19.
In the decisive fifth set, Williams again opened things with a kill. Later in the set, Williams added an ace to put the Lopes up 13-10. Lewis then scored four straight points to earn the first match point of the night. Saada notched a huge kill to tie the match at 14, then Kinnebrew gave the Lopes match point with a kill of his own. On the final play of the game, Saada slammed a kill to give GCU the win.
Four GCU players reached double figures in kills. Kinnebrew led the Lopes with 14, Saada added 13 and Silbernagel and Williams each tallied 12. Setter Michael Milstein notched 50 assists during the match and Sky Engleman led the defense with 13 digs.
GCU advances to the MIVA Finals and will face the top seed Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. Live stats and video will be available.