Lewis big blocks lifted the program from the NCAA death bed and back to the NCAA Tournament.
Lewis had a season-high 20 blocks as it rallied to defeat Ohio State 20-25, 25-17, 22-25, 27-25, 15-10 in the MIVA Tournament championship match on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. The victory clinches the Flyers first appearance in the Final Four since the program received the men’s volleyball version of the NCAA death penalty less than 10 years ago.
Lewis middle attacker Matt Gallik had a match-high 13 blocks in the victory, including two blocks in the decisive game five.
Gallik was one of six Flyers to have at least five blocks in the victory as they held the Buckeyes to less than a .200 attack percentage in two of the five games.
Lewis out-hit Ohio State .331 to .242 and had three players with double-digit kills.
Outside attacker Jay Petty had a game-high 25 kills with five of his kills in the decisive fifth game, including the match-winning kill. In addition, outside attacker Geoff Powell had 17 kills and middle attacker Aaron Flick added 11 kills.
Ohio State outside attacker Shawn Sangrey in the loss had a match-high 31 kills on 74 attack attempts. This was the third time this season that the All-American senior had at least 30 kills in a match.
With this loss, Ohio State’s streak of consecutive MIVA Tournament championships ends at four. The Buckeyes had not lost a conference postseason match since the 2007 MIVA Tournament championship match and were vying to become the first team since the 1960s to win five straight MIVA Tournament titles.
Lewis will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004 when NCAA punished the program with a loss of scholarships and a two-year postseason ban for using ineligible players.
The NCAA rule violations and sanctions resulted in Lewis having to vacate two of its three MIVA championships and its 2003 NCAA championship. In addition, head coach Dave Deuser left the university and was replaced by Dan Friend, who has helped clean up the program.
Lewis in the decisive game five against Ohio State jumped out to a 3-1 lead and led by as many as five points before Ohio State closed the deficit to 12-10. An Ohio State service error, though, and back-to-back kills from Petty clinched the match for the Flyers.
The Buckeyes trailed 15-9 in the fourth game but rallied off seven consecutive points, including a two aces from Sangery, to take the lead. However, Lewis rallied from a 23-22 deficit to force overtime and force a decisive game five on a block from Gallik.
Ohio State trailed early in the third game before going on a 4-0 run take a 17-15 lead. The Buckeyes would not trail the rest of the set and took a one-game lead entering the fourth game.
With the second game tied at 7-7, the Flyers went on a 9-3 run to take a six-point lead. The Flyers lead by as many as eight points and out-hit the Buckeyes .500 to .111 in the game to tie up the match.
Flick also added a game-high seven kills in the second-game victory.
Sangrey had a game-high 11 kills as Ohio State won the opening game. The senior was also the only Buckeye with more than two kills in the five-point win.
The MIVA is one of three conferences whose conference tournament champion receives an automatic berth to the four-team NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA Tournament field and semifinal matches will be announced Sunday afternoon.
The national championship tournament will begin Thursday in Los Angeles.