The spectrum of road matches that North Greenville will experience in the opening week of the season could hardly get more different.
Coach Fred Battenfield informed Off the Block earlier this week that North Greenville will play the first-year program Urbana in its season opener on Jan. 3 and then face the three-time NCAA champions Ohio State on the following day.
This will be the second time in the last three years that the Crusaders have opened their season in Ohio. In the first meeting between the two programs, North Greenville lost to Ohio State in three games in 2018.
North Greenville finished last season with its first winning record in the program’s five-year history. The Crusaders also won their first postseason match in program history as they advanced to the ConfCarolinas Tournament semifinals.
All-ConfCarolinas outside attacker Jackson Gilbert highlights the starters returning for the Crusaders next season. Gilbert was among the national leaders in 2019 with a 3.29 kills per game average, including having a season-high 20 kills on a .432 attack percentage in an upset victory against the ConfCarolinas champions Barton in February.
Ohio State’s run of three consecutive MIVA championships ended with an injury plagued 2019 season and a loss in the MIVA Tournament quarterfinals.
Despite missing part of last season with an injury, sophomore outside attacker Jake Hanes was third in the nation averaging 4.36 kills. The Buckeyes also will enter 2020 with first-year head coach Kevin Burch, who was promoted following the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Pete Hanson.
Urbana under coach Andrew Palmer is preparing for its inaugural season. The NCAA Division II school located in Western Ohio announced in 2017 that it would add men’s volleyball, and it will compete as an independent without a conference affiliation next season.
Both Ohio State and Urbana are the NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams in Ohio.