Ohio State prematch VolleyFour news conference

Photo courtesy of The Ohio State University athletics.

Check out what Ohio State coach Pete Hanson and his players said in their news conference on Wednesday.

The two-time defending NCAA championship Ohio State will play the No. 1 seed Long Beach State in the VolleyFour on Thursday.

Ohio State coach Pete Hanson

Opening remarks
“Well, it should be an exciting match. Looking forward to playing the No. 1 team in the country and trying to continue our journey to getting to the finals and hopefully playing for another national championship. But, you know, it’s going to be a tall challenge for the Buckeyes. Long Beach is obviously a great team and they’ve kind of been on a mission since last year when we saw them in Columbus. I think our guys will be ready. I know
there is no fear in stepping out on the court and playing this team. We just have to do what we normally do and do it to the best of our abilities. I think if we do that we have a chance and that’s all we are asking for at this stage in the game.”

On what makes Long Beach State such a talented team
“Well let me see. They have the national coach of the year. They have the national assistant coach of the year. They probably have two candidates for the national player of the year and a third one who probably should be in the conversation in Kyle Ensing. But no, it’s a great group of guys. A well-coached team. A group who has been together for three years. They probably haven’t had quite the success that they have hoped for by this
time. I think that they really felt that they were a national championship caliber team last year and they didn’t get through that semifinal match. So you can tell that they are a very driven group and that they have something to prove and are trying to make a statement. And that’s what makes teams go from good to great. Whether it’s a disappointment that starts you on that journey or you are trying to maybe, in our case, hold on to what we’ve won. But it’s just a great collection of players right now. Clearly they are playing for each other and playing for a big, common goal and when you’ve got that going you can get a lot of great things done.”

On the trend of more teams outside of the West Coast contending for national championships
“I think it speaks to the fact that teams are getting a higher level of support across the country whether that’s in the form of scholarships or coaching staffs. But I also think the other component that is coming into play is there are now kids who are willing to go to other parts of the country. We have a number of West Coast kids on our team. Irvine had two starts from Chicago and Wisconsin on their team. Kids are just looking at programs where they fit athletically and academically, and that could be somebody from the Pacific Palisades who comes to Ohio State. I think it’s just developing a more consistent level of competition across the board. The nice thing is that programs like Loyola, Ohio State, Lewis and Penn State, for example, have proven that we have the resources and the support of our university to compete for national championships. Yeah it has been dominated by the West Coast, but I think that was in an era where there wasn’t a level of support across the country and I think that has changed for the better. Volleyball, at least on the men’s side, is becoming a nation-wide sport where kids can choose to go elsewhere and still be in this situation and that’s a good thing.”

Ohio State middle attacker Blake Leeson

On the winning culture that the upperclassmen have established
“I’d say it started in the last couple years with people like Miles Johnson, Christy Blough and Gabe (Gabriel Domecus). They always set the expectations high and let people beneath him, meaning the underclassmen, know that this is what we are about. They started off a great tradition. A lot of people buy into that because when things work and you trust your coaches, it’s easier to buy into a system or a program. I think we just keep
buying in and keep working hard that’s all you can ask for at the end of the day.”

On the possibility of winning a third national championship in a row
“I can’t speak on behalf for the other guys but for me personally, I enjoy being the underdog more than I do being the No. 1 seed as weird as that sounds. In 2016 we had no expectations and I think that allowed us to play more free. We are in that spot now so I like where we are at.”

On the pressure that comes with previously being the No. 1 seed
“In 2016 there were no expectations. You just kind of go out there and give it what you got. In 2017, we were expected to win. I think everyone was more tight. For me, it was more of a relief when we won more than an excited feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited. But it was more of ‘okay, we did what we were supposed to do’ versus in 2016 it was like ‘Oh my God, we did it.'”

Ohio State setter Sanil Thomas

On making adjustments to face an offensive team like Long Beach State
“I think what’s going to be key is the balance throughout the match, not just riding (Nicolas Szerszen) until he goes into the ground. Obviously he’s a great player but I can’t set him every ball. I wish I could. It’s just finding that balance and keeping their other middles honest. Our offense is at its best when everyone is connecting,
everyone is getting some balls and everyone is balanced so I think that’s going to be key for us.”

On the possibility of winning a third national championship in a row
“Honestly I don’t think we are thinking that far ahead. We have a tall challenge tomorrow to even get to the championship match. So I don’t think we have any pressure to have to repeat. We are just taking it one game at a time and one day at a time. We are fortunate enough that our season has gone this far and we are just going to try our hardest to keep it going.”