Szerszen, Hanes propel Ohio State to epic NCAA Tournament win

Photo by Jonathan Bates

Outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen delivered at least one more memorable performance in his All-American college career.

The senior had the match-winning kill in a fifth-game overtime as Ohio State defeated UC Irvine 25-19, 22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 16-14 in the NCAA Tournament first round on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Szerszen led all players in the elimination match with 22 kills on a .439 attack percentage.

This was the seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament match that Szerszen had double-digit kills for the two-time defending NCAA champion Buckeyes. In addition, Szerszen in this match became one of the first players in the rally scoring era to surpass 100 career kills in the NCAA Tournament.

Along with Szerszen, opposite Jake Hanes contributed 22 kills while hitting .341. The Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Freshman All-American also set the NCAA Tournament single-match record in the 25-point rally scoring era with eight aces, including an ace in the fifth game to give the Buckeyes at 14-13 lead.

UC Irvine fought off one match-point to force the first fifth-game overtime in the five-year history of the NCAA Tournament first round. However, Ohio State responded with two consecutive points to win the match and advance to play the No. 1 seed Long Beach State in the VolleyFour on Thursday.

Despite the loss, UC Irvine out-hit Ohio State .342 to .305 and had at least a .300 attack percentage in each of the final four games.

Both the Anteaters starting middle attackers contributed double-digit kills. All-American Scott Stadick had 12 kills on a .524 attack percentage, while Matthew Younggren had 11 kills and zero errors on a .688 attack percentage.

Stadick, the 2018 Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Blocker of the Year, also had a match-high seven blocks. UC Irvine out-blocked Ohio State 9.5 to 5.

Szerszen led Ohio State defensively with 10 digs and contributed two blocks.

With this victory, Ohio State remains in contention to become the first program since UCLA to three-peat as NCAA champions.

UC Irvine was making its second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years after earning the final at-large bid. The Anteaters have not won a NCAA Tournament match since winning the national championship in 2013.