Ohio State to play UCLA, USC in Big Ten-Pac-12 Challenge

Photo by Fabiana Beatriz

Jonathan Bates | Associate Editor

Ohio State will play UCLA and USC in the fifth annual Big Ten-Pac-12 Challenge, on the campus of Penn State on January 24 and 26. Each school has hosted the challenge in the first four years, so now the challenge returns to Rec Hall.

The Bruins have the best record in the challenge with a 7-1 record, while the Buckeyes are next with a 4-4 record.

Last season, the Bruins ranked the top ten nationally in terms of kills per game, attack percentage, aces per game, and assists per game. UCLA lost All-American setter/outside attacker Micah Ma’a from last year’s team, as well as outside attacker Dylan Missry. Ma’a ranked second nationally with 0.638 aces per game, and recorded the only triple-double in Division I men’s volleyball last season.

Fortunately for the Bruins, they return All-American middle attacker Daenan Gyimah, starting opposite Brandon Rattray, starting outside attacker Austin Matautia, setter Adam Parks (All-MPSF Freshman Team), and libero Cole Pender (All-MPSF Freshman Team). Gyimah ranked fourth nationally last year with a .435 attack percentage, while also leading the Bruins with 81 blocks. Rattray led the Bruins with 3.33 kills per game.

Pete Hanson announced his retirement in April after a 35 year head-coaching career that saw him guide the Buckeyes to three national championships and 712 wins. Kevin Burch has been promoted to take over the reins, while Hudson Bates and Luke Wood Maloney will serve as his associate head coach and assistant coach respectively.

Not only will there be a new coach in charge in Columbus, but the Buckeyes will have to fill the voids left by the graduation of starting setter Sanil Thomas, starting middle attacker Blake Leeson, and libero Aaron Samarin. Thomas, who spent a considerable amount of time last season battling injuries, led the team with 9.95 assists per game. Leeson, who was named to the All-MIVA First Team, led the team with 108 sets played, a .456 attack percentage, and 0.81 blocks per game. Samarin led the Buckeyes with 1.64 digs per game.

Returners for the Buckeyes include opposite Jake Hanes (All-American Honorable Mention), middle attacker Ethan Talley (All-MIVA Freshman Team), outside attacker Reese Devilbiss, outside attacker, and libero Parker Mikesch. Hanes, despite battling injuries for most of the season, led the Buckeyes with 4.36 kills per game and 34 aces.

Ohio State finished 10-19 last season (5-9 MIVA), good for seventh in the regular season standings. The Buckeyes lost to Loyola in the quarterfinals of the MIVA Tournament in four games.

The Buckeyes have moved into brand new Covelli Center, and will play 15 of their 28 matches in 2020 there. In addition to playing the two MPSF foes, the Buckeyes will play six matches against EIVA teams (home-and-home series with both Penn State and Saint Francis), two matches against Big West teams, two matches against ConfCarolinas teams, and two matches against Independent teams.

For the first time since 2007, the Buckeyes will not make a trip out to the West Coast.

A new aspect of the 2020 MIVA schedule is that each team plays a home-and-home series with each other conference opponent. Last year, Ohio State hosted McKendree for both conference matches, while in 2018, McKendree hosted Ohio State for both matches.

2020 Ohio State Schedule

Saturday, Jan. 4 vs. North Greenville
Tuesday, Jan. 7 vs. Urbana
Thursday, Jan 9 vs. Saint Francis
Thursday, Jan. 16 vs. Lincoln Memorial
Friday, Jan. 17 vs. King
Friday, Jan. 24 vs. UCLA (neutral site)
Sunday, Jan. 26 vs USC (neutral site)
Friday, Jan. 31 at Saint Francis
Saturday, Feb 1 at Penn State
Friday, Feb. 7 vs. UC Santa Barbara
Saturday, Feb. 8 vs. Long Beach State
Thursday, Feb. 13 vs. Lewis
Saturday, Feb. 15 vs. McKendree
Friday, Feb. 21 at Loyola
Saturday, Feb. 22 at Purdue Fort Wayne
Friday, Feb. 28 at Quincy
Saturday, Feb. 29 at Lindenwood
Wednesday, March 4 vs. Ball State
Sunday, March 8 vs. Penn State
Thursday, March 12 at NJIT
Saturday, March 14 at George Mason
Saturday, March 21 at Ball State
Friday, March 27 vs. Lindenwood
Saturday, March 28 vs. Quincy
Thursday, April 2 vs. McKendree
Saturday, April 4 at Lewis
Thursday, April 9 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne
Saturday, April 11 vs. Loyola