Men's volleyball: Ohio State advances to NCAA semifinals
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Ohio State University men’s volleyball team (29-3) surged into the NCAA Semifinals via a four-set victory (22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-21) over George Mason University in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes, ranked second and seeded third, will face the second-seeded and third-ranked Bruins of UCLA (25-6) Thursday (May 5) evening at 8 p.m. ET.
National Player of the Year candidate, Nicolas Szerszen, paced all comers in kills (20), digs (16) and service aces (4). He added on two block assists as well. The sophomore outside hitter attacked .381 (20-4-42) en route to 25 total points. Miles Johnson contributed 17 kills while Christian Franceschi and Blake Leeson also chipped in double-digit points. Franceschi terminated nine kills and posted three block assists; and Leeson notched a career-high seven blocks (16 blocks in the last 13 sets played for Leeson) to go along with five kills and two aces.
Christy Blough joined Szerszen in the double-double club, pairing 48 assists with a dozen digs. As a team, Ohio State racked up 52 digs and threw up 10 blocks to limit George Mason at a .110 attacking efficiency.
Johnson and Leeson teamed up for a rejection on the very first point of the night, kick-starting a 5-0 burst out of the gates for the Buckeyes. Despite out-killing the Patriots 14-7 in the frame, Ohio State ultimately couldn’t seal the deal - thanks in large part to nine service errors. George Mason slowly climbed back into it and took its first lead at 20-19. The Patriots stayed on top for the remainder of a 25-22 GMU triumph.
Johnson rebounded from a slow start in the opening frame by ripping six kills in set number two. He collaborated with Leeson for another block at 11-6, forcing a Patriot timeout. It marked the second of consecutive stuffs for Leeson during a five-point run. Ohio State’s 12-6 advantage quickly evaporated, however, suddenly all-square at 12-12. George Mason failed to clear the hump and take a lead though. The Buckeyes out-scored GMU 13-9 the rest of the way to even things up one set apiece.
Leeson and Szerszen highlighted Set 3, combining for 13 points. Leeson accumulated four blocks, an ace and a kill; complimenting an 8-kill explosion from Szerszen. The Frenchman’s offensive onslaught opened and closed the frame, mixing in six more kills throughout. He connected from the back row to clinch a 25-20 winner. His set-point opportunity was set up by back-to-back Leeson blocks.
Neither squad could muster a considerable upper hand in the fourth. No lead greater than two points came until Ohio State went ahead 15-12 just before the media timeout. The Buckeyes would go on to lengthen its edge by as many as six points at before eventually wrapping it up 25-21. Ohio State’s offense awakened in the final frame, swinging at a .406 clip (15-2-32).