Szerszen pounds King to complete Ohio State sweep in NCAA play-in match

Photo courtesy of The Ohio State University athletics.

Outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen picked up in NCAA Tournament right where he left off last season.

Szerszen had both a match-high 14 kills on a .619 attack percentage and four aces as Ohio State swept King 25-13, 25-23, 25-18 in the NCAA Tournament play-in match on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.

This was the third consecutive NCAA Tournament match in his All-American career that Szerszen had double-digit kills and at least a .400 attack percentage. Szerszen had 16 kills while hitting .480 against BYU in the 2017 NCAA Tournament finals to help Ohio State win back-to-back national championships.

Szerszen was one of three Buckeyes with double-digit kills against King. Freshman opposite Jake Hanes had 12 kills on a .588 attack percentage, while middle attacker Blake Leeson finished with 11 kills and zero attack errors while hitting .846.

Setter Sanil Thomas guided the offense to at least a .500 attack percentage in all three games as Ohio State out-hit the ConfCarolinas champions .528 to .250.

All-conference opposite Jeff Sprayberry in the loss led King with 13 kills. In addition, opposite Kiel Bell contributed nine kills and a team-high five digs.

After having seven attack errors and hitting zero in the opening game, the Tornado had more than a .300 attack percentage in each of the final two games. King in the second and third game committed a combined six attack errors — one more attack error than Ohio State.

King was playing in its first NCAA Tournament match in program history. It also was attempting to become the first ConfCarolinas team to win a game and match in the NCAA Tournament since the conference started receiving an automatic bid in 2014.

The Tornado had their best opportunity to extend the match in the second game.

King was hitting more than .400 in the game and led Ohio State 23-21. However, the Buckeyes rallied to close out the game on a 4-0 run that featured two kills from Szerszen.

With this sweep, Ohio State will advance to play UC Irvine in the NCAA Tournament first round on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

The Buckeyes are attempting to become the second program in NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball history to win three consecutive national championships.