Giana Han | Off the Block special contributor
Zero NCAA Tournament experience turned out to be not an issue at all for the Ohio State players.
With every player on its roster making their NCAA finals debut, Ohio State swept BYU 32-30, 25-23, 25-17 on Saturday in University Park, Pennsylvania, to win the national championship.
Four Buckeyes finished the match with double-digit kills — All-American opposite Miles Johnson with a team-high 15, middle attacker Blake Leeson with 11, middle attacker Driss Guessous with 10 and All-American outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen with 10. In addition, four players had at least one service ace, including Szerszen who had a match-high three aces.
Although the Buckeyes trailed through both the first and second games, they led in game wins the entire match.
Throughout the first set, two things characterized the game — the efficient hitting and the service errors.
The Buckeyes hit at an efficiency of .371 and the Cougars hit at .345, but there were also nine Buckeye service errors and seven Cougar service errors.
The Cougars and the Buckeyes traded points back and forth in the first set until the Cougars pulled ahead by three, 11-8.
A Buckeye block and a kill by setter Christy Blough tied the game at 15, and the two teams continued to battle for each point.
The Cougars reached game-point first at 24-23, but the Buckeyes held off the attack and tied it at 24 to force an overtime.
The teams traded points for seven Cougar game-points before the Buckeyes earned its first game-point at 31-30. Unlike the Cougars, the Buckeyes capitalized on the game-point and finished the game 32-30.
The second game followed a similar pattern to the first with the come from behind Buckeye win.
Both teams maintained a high hitting percentage, but they reduced the number of service errors.
The tighter serving and balanced offense helped the Buckeyes take the second game 25-23.
With two game victories under their belts, the Buckeyes came out confident in the third and quickly grabbed a lead.
They forced the Cougars to call two timeouts early on when their serving forced the Cougars out of system and gained them a six-point lead.
The Buckeyes did not let go of the lead and maintained it through the set and finished the championship match with an eight-point, 25-17 win.
The number of offensive threats that the Buckeyes presented to the Cougars helped spread out the defense and, combined with the serve-pass game, they earned the Buckeyes the national title.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in whatsoever at all.” Guessous said. “None of us were expecting a match like that, I think. I think all of us were expecting five sets of the first match. I don’t know when it’s going to hit us, but, when it does, I think it’s going to be awesome.”