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Ohio State men’s volleyball survives five-set thriller in NCAA quarterfinals

The Buckeyes will face No. 1 Long Beach State on Thursday in the semis.

Don Liebig

Just three matches away from an NCAA Championship three-peat, the No. 6 Ohio State (25-5) men’s volleyball team had to fight off a feisty UC Irvine squad (21-10) to win the quarterfinal matchup 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 16-14. The Buckeyes will now advance to the NCAA semifinals.

The match against the Anteaters was back-and-forth throughout, with neither team able to win consecutive sets. With the match, and a spot in the semifinals on the line, UC Irvine took a 9-7 lead in the fifth set, before the Buckeyes tied it after redshirt-senior Nick Laffin had a kill, and Irvine’s Dante Chakravorti committed an attack error.

From there, the teams traded points until it was tied at 14. After a block by Laffin and junior setter Sanil Thomas— who finished with 57 assists—, Irvine’s Aaron Koubi committed an error giving the Buckeyes a match point.

To finish off the Anteaters, Szerszen hit a crosscourt shot that snuck just inside the line to give the Buckeyes the win. Senior All-American Szerszen and redshirt-freshman Jake Hanes each had 22 kills for OSU on the match.

Against UC Irvine, Hanes tied the program’s all-time single-match record with eight service aces. He matched former Buckeye Jason Tobkin’s mark set in 2011 against Princeton. After the game, legendary Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson suggested that Hanes might have stepped up a bit, because he didn’t want to let the seniors down; the freshman didn’t disagree.

“This is their last year, so, I know [from] my senior year in high school, it sucks when you lose that last point,” Hanes said. “So I’m trying to fight as hard as I can for these guys who aren’t going to get another chance once this is over.”

After the game, Hanson said of the victory, “In the end, it comes down to making a couple of plays at the right time and we had some guys do that, but it wasn’t for lack of UC Irvine trying to stop us.”

He continued, “Our guys now have a chance to play another day and that’s kind of what we talked about in the locker room was get through this one today and come back on Thursday, play another good team and see what happens.”

With the victory, the Buckeyes improve their overall NCAA Tournament record to 16-22. Despite their sub-.500 mark historically, OSU is currently on a seven-match unbeaten streak in the NCAA Tournament, and the Buckeyes have won 16-straight postseason matches overall. If those aren’t things to celebrate, I don’t know what are.

The Buckeyes will face the top-ranked Long Beach State 49ers on Thursday, May 3 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Thursday in Los Angeles inside Pauley Pavilion. The other semifinal will consist of No. 2 BYU and UCLA.