For the first time in 11 years, the Buckeyes are back in the national championship match.
The No. 3 seed Ohio State upset the No. 2 seed Penn State in four games in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in University Park, Pa., to advance to the title match on Saturday.
The Buckeyes had four players with at least 10 kills as it out-hit the Nittany Lions .292 to .140. Ohio State outside attacker John Klanac finished the match a with a team-high 16 kills, while outside attacker Shawn Sangrey had 15 kills in the victory.
Ohio State, which has never won an national title, had reached the NCAA Tournament the last four season but always failed to advance beyond the semifinals. The last time the Buckeyes played in the national title match was in 2000 when it lost to UCLA.
Check out the what the players and coaches had to say afterward in the postmatch news conference.
[Editor’s note: Transcription courtesy of the Penn State athletics department]
Ohio State news conference
Pete Hanson, coach: Well obviously we’re pleased to advance. Overall, I think it was a pretty good match. Both teams kind of took their turns playing the way they’re capable of playing, at times I think things didn’t go as well as each team had planned, but in the end I thought we were a little better with our serve-receive and our spiking and we blocked the ball a few more times than they did. Credit Penn State, they played really hard and they’re going to be a good team. They have some young kids and they’re going to learn from this. They’re going to be force to be reckoned with in the next few years.
Q: You outplayed Penn State in almost every aspect, what did they do to stay in it tonight?
A: They have a couple of guys that created some problems for us with their serving. Edgardo’s (Goas) slow serve has been a struggle for us and that was what really took us over the edge in that match we played here in April. I think that they weren’t necessarily getting clean kills, but they were getting some transition balls and they blocked a few timely balls here and there. We just weren’t quite as crisp as we should have been or would have liked to have been in transition. I thought we created a lot of opportunities to score points, but we didn’t always terminate the ball and I thought that was partly a credit to Penn State. I think our serving was kind of in and out. At times we put a little run together, but we couldn’t sustain it. We would make an error after a timeout and things like that. That’s just something we have to get better at?
Q: Can you talk about your team’s blocking?
Hanson: We’ve just had a real good scheme or system the last few weeks and quite frankly I credit a lot of it to the young man in the shirt and tie with the notebook. He’s just a volunteer coach for us. He’s an undergrad student at Ohio State that’s wanted to be a volleyball coach and he joined our program two years ago and just does a great job. He studies film and puts together a game plan and I think the guys are buying in to what we’re doing. When you get the kids to feel comfortable in the system, then you can just let them go out relax and perform the skill. I think we’ve spent some time on that skill and it shows.
Q: What does it mean to play in the championship match on Saturday night?
Steven Kehoe, setter: I think it’s going to be similar to tonight in the fact that it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates. They all are very deserving of being there. I thought we played pretty unselfish volleyball. When we play together it’s a lot of fun and we can play really good volleyball.
Q: Can you talk about how John (Klanac) bailed you guys out on multiple occasions tonight?
Kehoe: Like I said we’re familiar with the opponent and just talking to the coaching staff throughout the match, our left side guys were hitting the ball really well. Not just John, but Jason Tobkin had some really timely kills. With him, we just tell him to keep hitting it hard and good things are going to happen for us. He’s matured through all five years and he wants that responsibility. He’s taken over and done really well for us.
Q: Why was the blocking so big for you guys tonight?
Shawn Sangrey, outside attacker: I think our coaching staff all through practice had us practicing that and we’re disciplined. We stayed with our game plan. We knew we had to get out on (Joe) Sunder. He was a big gun. We were disciplined.
Q: What does it mean to play in the championship match on Saturday night?
Sangrey: For me, it’s unreal especially in my home state in front of all my family and friends. It couldn’t have happened at a better time with this senior class and our leadership. We’re going to have to play our butts off against Santa Barbara. It’s not out of the question that we can do it.
Penn State news conference
Mark Pavlik, coach: First off, I’d like to congratulate Pete (Hanson), Tim (Embaugh), and Sean (Byron) for their efforts with the Buckeyes. That’s a pretty good Buckeye team. I wish we would have found a way to put that small ball on the big square. When you look at it, our unforced errors killed us tonight. It put us in a hole. The thing that I’m going to take away from this is how many times we were down we kept crawling back and crawling back. We tied it back up and then either Ohio State didn’t make a very nice play or we hit a ball out of bounds, and then all of a sudden we’d be down by one or two points again. The trademark of this team all year long has been to go as hard as they can for as long as they could. That was no exception tonight. Don’t mistake sloppy play with lack of effort. This team tonight worked their butts off. It just didn’t happen tonight. Congrats to our Big Ten brethren and we wish them well in the finals.
Q: Ohio State came out in the first set, lights out, and you guys, like you said crawled back, what particularly gave them the edge?
Pavlik: We knew going in that they put their blockers in good places. They did it the last two times we played them. We knew defensively that they are awfully good. I think that they’re more of one of the best underrated defensive teams in the country. We talked in the huddle to not let our frustrations overcome us because it was going to be a long match. I really think you saw a bit of desperation from a group of fifth year seniors on the other side of the net that served them well tonight.
Q: Without hitting particularly well, what kinds of things did you do to stay in the match to make it as competitive as it was?
Pavlik: I really think it goes back to how hard we played. I thought these guys were pretty good forgetting the last play, last contact, and moving on throughout the match. I think our crowd was a factor. I’d like to thank them because I don’t think they ever let us really get down. They were behind us the entire match. It was one of the best Penn State home crowds that we had in a long time. I just as disappointed as I am for these guys as I am for our crowd because they deserve better than that tonight. I also think our serving managed to keep pushing them off the net. It seemed that we had stretches that put us off on some awfully good defensive volleyball and we were able to turn points, but we weren’t able to sustain it at a high enough level for a long enough time.
Q: You guys had a great ride. Then to end like this. How strange was it for you out there?
Pavlik: All year long, this group has been so much fun to be in the gym with. We asked them for great effort in the gym every day and for the most part, they’ve given us everything that they’ve had. We had a team of five freshmen and five sophomores. When you look at four juniors and two seniors, we are trying to impart on them what it takes to be successful Nittany Lion student-athletes let alone what it takes to be out on that court this time of year. There was no segregation. They learned from each other. I enjoyed being in the gym every second of everyday with them. This is a pretty special group. I said earlier in the year, we certainly couldn’t be confused with a sexy corvette that people walk out of the gym saying oh look at that. We were the ‘57 Chevy. In the first game, I was saying come on, get started, get turned over. Once we started to roll, we were able to keep in the match, but we just weren’t good enough tonight to beat the Buckeyes.
Q: Can you talk about the crowd tonight? How did that help you?
Edgardo Goas, setter: It was amazing. They were a big help for us. It was a shame that we didn’t play clean and had a bunch of errors, so we couldn’t get the crowd more involved. It was great having a packed house.
Q: Joe (Sunder) had a pretty good game as far as number of kills, but no one else really had big numbers. Is there any reason why you couldn’t get production out of anyone else?
Goas: Ohio State was playing good defensive. We couldn’t put the ball away. There’s nothing particular. They all tried hard to put the ball away, but just couldn’t. Tonight just wasn’t our night.
Q: How big was Ohio State’s block tonight?
Joe Sunder, outside attacker: They were just solid. I wasn’t swinging as high as I should have been. Obviously they got me a few times there. I think it was more solid than most of the blocks that I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks. They blocked well.
Q: Can you talk about what it means to go out with a game like this, especially with such a big crowd?
Dennis Del Valle, libero: I mean it’s weird. I’m still shocked that I’m done. I’m never going to be on that court playing, wearing this uniform. It’s frustrating, but at the same time I know we played hard. I know we tried our best. You saw the difference between having a lot of upper classmen on the other side of the net verses ours. We have a lot of young guys on the team. It’s awesome to finish my career here. I wish it was in the National Championship game, but it is what it is.