COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State University men's volleyball team (31-2) set up an NCAA Finals rematch against Brigham Young University (26-4) by eliminating the University of Hawaii (27-6) in straight sets lasting less than 90 minutes (25-23, 25-18, 25-19). Roles are reversed for the 2017 edition of the championship match as OSU is the top seed facing a third-seed Cougar squad.
Saturday's title bout is slated for 7 p.m. ET start and will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
The Buckeyes nearly led from start to finish, sitting on top for the entire first and third sets while trailing by a lone point 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 in the second stanza. A kill by Christy Blough pushed Ohio State ahead 4-3, representing the only lead change of the match.
Blough divvied out 31 assists to five different attackers, navigating a .358 hitting production. He connected with Nicolas Szersen for a team-high 10 digs while swinging .409 (10-1-22). Fellow Frenchman, Maxime Hervoir also hit above the .400 level on his seven kills. Driss Guessous started the night by terminating each of his first four spikes and ended at .600 on eight total kills (8-2-10). Szerszen also tacked on five points from the service stripe and a block assist to pace all players with 15.5 points.
Ohio State garnered an 11-1 edge in blocking which included a five-swat explosion in the opening frame. Blake Leeson was in on four (1s, 3a) of those first-set rejections and racked up seven stuffs by night's end.
The clash's most hotly-contested set proved to be the first one. Ohio State own an advantage of four points several times during the set before a valiant counterpunch from the Rainbow Warriors locked it up at 22-all to cause a Buckeye timeout. Johnson and Szseszen then combined to bounce kills on three of the next four rallies, securing a 25-23 winner.Blough continued to steer the offense in all directions, pairing with five different teammates for multiple kills in the second set. The Buckeyes also added on four more team blocks and monstrous run at the service line from Szerszen, overpowering the Rainbow Warriors in the 25-18 triumph. With Szerszen toeing the baseline, Ohio State rattled off seven straight points to break up an 8-8 tie. After a Guessous kill ignited the stretch, the ball was handed over to Szerszen and his subsequent three consecutive aces. He landed one more haymaker two points later, acing Brett Rosenmeier at 15-8.
Ohio State left little doubt in the third and final set, surging to a .647 team hitting percentage on 13 kills. Szerszen closed the door and took care of the last two OSU points with his fourth and fifth kills of the set on six error-free attempts.