The legend of Ohio State All-American outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen just got even bigger.
Szerszen had a match-winning ace in a fifth-game overtime as Ohio State defeated UCLA 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, 20-25, 18-16 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday in University Park, Pennsylvania.
This was one of five aces in the match for Szerszen, who a day earlier became the first Buckeye in program history to win the AVCA National Player of the Year. In addition, Szerszen added 15 kills and eight digs in the victory against Bruins.
Ohio State won its second all-time match in program history against UCLA despite being out-hit .339 to .226. The Bruins also had at least a .400 attack percentage in the final three games.
Szerszen was one of three Buckeyes with more than five kills in the victory.
All-American opposite Miles Johnson finished with a match-high 20 kills. Outside attacker Christian Franceschi added seven kills, including a kill to set up the match-point in the six-point fifth-game overtime.
UCLA in the loss had four players finish with more than 10 kills. All-American Jake Arnitz led the Bruins with 18 kills, while middle attackers Oliver Martin and Mitch Stahl each had 11 kills on more than .600 attack percentage.
This semifinal match featured a combined 46 service errors with UCLA committing 26, including a service error at match-point in the fifth game.
UCLA led in the fifth game 9-8 when the officials called a Bruin player for a lift and awarded a point to Ohio State. UCLA coach John Speraw visibly upset with the decision called a timeout on the following play after a Buckeyes’ kill to take the lead.
UCLA rallied from a 13-11 deficit to retake the lead and force multiple match-points but could not convert against Ohio State.
The Bruins forced a decisive fifth after closing out the fourth game on a 9-5 run to even the match.
Both Szerszen and Johnson had a team-high five kills in the third game as the Buckeyes hit a match-best .545 with one attack error to move one game away from reaching the NCAA Tournament finals.
Ohio State and UCLA were tied 22-22 in the second game before the Buckeyes scored three consecutive points to win the game and even the match. Franceschi in the victory.
UCLA held Ohio State to a match-low .038 attack percentage in the opening game. In addition, outside attacker Jake Arnitz had a game-high four kills — one less kill than the Buckeyes had as a team in the opening game.
Ohio State with this victory extends the nation’s longest winning streak to 22 matches and will play BYU in the NCAA Tournament finals on Saturday.
The Buckeyes have not won a national title since last reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2011.