Q&A with Ohio State at the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament

Ohio State men’s volleyball coach Pete Hanson, along with setter Steven Kehoe and middle attacker Kevin Heine held a news conference Wednesday to discuss its upcoming NCAA Tournament match.

The No. 3 seed Ohio State will play the No. 2 seed Penn State in the NCAA Tournament semifinals at 9 p.m. Thursday in University Park, Pa.

The Buckeyes (24-6, 11-1 MIVA) reached their four consecutive NCAA Tournament after winning the MIVA championship, but have failed advance beyond the semifinals during that stretch.

View an abridged version of the news conference below. For a complete transcript of the news conference check out the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament central.

[Editor’s note: Transcript courtesy of the Penn State athletics department]

Pete Hanson, coach: Clearly we are happy to be back, we have been here twice before this year and it is nice to be back here a third time for this event. It is something that we talked about as a goal all year long. I recall our seniors talking about it in the locker room at Stanford as we lost that semifinal match to Stanford about trying to return to that semifinal match and play a little bit better and have some different results. It is a pleasure to be here and hopefully we will play better tomorrow night and see if we can have some different results.

Q: You have already seen Penn State twice this year, beat them the first time and lost to them the second time, what are you guys thinking going into it, what have you been stressing in practice this week?


Hanson: We have not changed a lot with our practice routine. We have talked about continuing to do what we do, be ourselves, what has been successful for us in the last few weeks. You don’t know your opponent until this past Sunday so you don’t have a lot of time to prep for them and obviously it has been good for us, the way the seeds came out, in that we are familiar with them and vice versa they are familiar with us. I think that adds a level of comfort with what is going on this week in terms of what is going on these next couple of days. I don’t expect Penn State to do anything different, they have been a very routine team in that they play their guys and do the same things. I think it is going to come down to execution and who is playing well at that moment tomorrow night.

Q: Is this a dream match-up for you guys, being that you are both Big Ten schools?

Hanson: I think this is really neat. Hopefully, it will help get some more publicity out there for men’s volleyball particularly in this part of the country and the Big Ten. I think this is an absolute great match-up. They have been a historic program for years and we are trying to enhance our history, which we have done a good job of the past three to four years and hopefully something good will happen in the next couple days to enhance it a little bit more.

Q: How does this team compare with the team in 2000? Do you feel this year is the best opportunity you’ve had to win it all?

Hanson: I think it is a very good opportunity, but that was a different team structurally and at that time we were playing under a different scoring system. That was a big physical team, Colin McMillan was our starting middle blocker, our seven foot middle blocker, and we paid him a little bit of money on scholarship to block balls because that is how you scored back then. Things were a bit different and this team is a good side out team. We are a much better serving team than that team because serving wasn’t emphasized ten years ago in that scoring system. We are different in some better ways and now you just have to build your teams differently based on the scoring. I like the make-up of the group and I think they are in a great position to have success this weekend. First we have to have success on Thursday.

Q: What is the biggest difference between this year’s team going in and last year’s team that had to play Stanford?

Hanson: I think we are more consistent and we are a little calmer on the floor because of the maturity. For example, the last two playoff matches were on our home floor and we lost the first game to
both Lewis and Loyola. The credit goes to those two teams. They played lights out volleyball. We didn’t play that badly, but they played great and at the end of the first game as we are making the switchover and the guys sit down on the bench all the talk is about, “That’s okay, we are still in a good spot we are going to get better we just have to keep doing what we are doing and there is no need to panic or change tactically. Let’s just continue to execute and play our game.” The results speak for themselves. We got stronger as the match went on and the other two teams didn’t and I think that is a reflection of the leadership, the maturity, the belief in what they are doing and that overtime they are going to have success because of what they have been through this year. We put together as tough a schedule as we could and we did some things that put those guys under some pressure and they handled it really well so I think they are as prepared as they could be.

Q: Is Shawn Sangrey fully recovered from this health problems earlier this year?

Hanson: Yeah, he’s played for almost a month now but coming off of the injury when he started to play you could tell that his conditioning had suffered. I think now his physicality is back and he served some balls this weekend that were the Shawn Sangrey of February when he was playing at a pretty high level. I think he is back to where he needs to be.

Q: How does already having gone through the NCAA experience help?

Steven Kehoe, senior setter: For us seniors, it is our fifth year and we have five fifth year seniors on our team and this is our fourth time in the Final Four so the pressure of the match itself is not as bad and we are more excited to play. We are here more for the match. We are grateful to have the opportunity and we are ready to play.

Q: How much can you guys take from the last match you played here?

Kehoe: It is one more time playing in this gym. As far as the execution of our last match here I do not think it was our best performance and we are looking forward to redeeming ourselves and showing everybody what we got.

Q: How excited were you when the pairings came out and you saw you were playing Penn State?

Kevin Heine, senior middle attacker: In some ways excited because it is a team we know, a team Steve and I have played nine times before, but we know at the same time we need to win two games to get to the National Championship so we will have to play whoever we get, we will have to play two teams no matter what.