Coach Pete Hanson was not among the people before the match who thought No. 14 Ohio State would have an easy victory against first-year MIVA member McKendree.
The veteran coach proved to be right in the Buckeyes’ season-opening win.
Ohio State in the nation’s college men’s volleyball opener defeated McKendree 25-27, 25-21, 23-25, 25-17 on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.
“The nature of the game is if you make a couple of bad plays at the wrong time, what could have been a blow out on your side becomes a game and a win for the other team,” Hanson said. “It’s nothing we took for granted or thought it would be a cake walk. Our kids knew McKendree would play hard. They are the new kid on the block and wanted to send a statement to some people.”
Ohio State, which was picked to finish in fourth place in the conference preseason poll, out-hit McKendree .360 to .073 and had more than a .400 attack percentage in two games.
The Buckeyes also had three players finish with double-digit kills, including outside attacker Miles Johnson who had a match-high 15 kills. Freshman opposite Nicolas Szerszen had 14 kills, while all-conference outside attacker Michael Henchy added 11 kills.
Hanson said he was pleased with how Szerszen preformed in his college debut, but as expected the freshman struggle with his consistency.
“[There was] spurts where he could be good for three or four points. Then, he would not be in rhythm. Then he would find it again,” the coach said. “That’s just youth. He is going to be a good player of us.”
With a starting lineup primarily comprised of freshmen and sophomores, Hanson said the biggest challenge for the Buckeyes early in the season will be playing at a consistent high level throughout an entire match.
“You are going to have to fight through some up and downs with a young team some times,” Hanson said. “Overall I was pleased. It wasn’t bad volleyball for the first match of the season.”
McKendree, a second-year program, was projected in the conference preseason poll to finish its inaugural MIVA season in last place.
The Bearcats were held to a negative attack percentage in two of the four games. Middle attackers Brendan Schmidt and opposite Maalik Walker in the loss, though, each finished with a team-high eight kills.
Ohio State will conclude its two-match conference series against McKendree on Saturday before traveling to the West Coast for a three-match road trip next week. As part of that West Coast road trip, Ohio State will play No. 7 UC Irvine and No. 10 Hawai’i in the Outrigger Invitational.
Hanson said he worked with McKendree coach Nickie Sanlin in the off-season to play these conference matches in advance of the Outrigger Invitational. The coach also said playing the Bearcats will benefit the Buckeyes for the upcoming Outrigger Invitational.
“It’s not easy getting started this early,” Hanson said. “I was hoping it would give us just the mechanics of getting new guys on the floor, playing together and getting use to one another and figuring things out against live competition. Hopefully that will help us a little bit before we get out there.”