Ohio State for the first time in its 43-year program history is the national champion.
Ohio State defeated UC Santa Barbara 20-25, 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 15-9 in the men’s volleyball NCAA championship match on Saturday in University Park, Pa., to become the first Midwest school to win the national title.
Buckeye setter Steven Kehoe was named the NCAA Tournament MVP as he guided the offense to out-hit the Gauchos .329 to .198. In addition, four Ohio State players finished the match with at least 10 kills, including outside attacker Shawn Sangrey who had a match-high 30 kills.
Check out the what the players and coaches had to say afterward in the postmatch news conference.
[Editor’s note: Transcription courtesy of the Penn State athletics department]
Ohio State news conference
Pete Hanson, coach: Wow. This is a great night for Ohio State men’s volleyball. First of all, I’d like to congratulate [UC] Santa Barbara on a great season. The played hard from start to finish. Our kids weathered a tough start in game one, and we weathered the storm and got to game five. We talked about who was going to work harder and make the critical plays. Thank goodness the guys in scarlet and grey did that. We had some outstanding performances by a lot of guys, and three of them are sitting right here [Steven Kehoe, Shawn Sangrey, and John Klanac], Grayson Overman was outstanding as a sophomore middle blocker, he had a wonderful night. I’m just really happy for this team and all the teams that have come before us, and hopefully we’ve added another element to the Ohio State volleyball legacy, we’re pretty proud of that.
Q: Coach did you ever think you’d be talking about winning a national championship with 26 service errors?
Hanson: Probably not. That’s obviously a stat that isn’t in our favor, for sure. But when you out-kill a team 74-45 you make up for it with your attacking. A lot of that credit goes to the three guys that pass the ball, and then our setter Steve [Kehoe] and then on to our young guy from Pennsylvania [Sangrey]. I think I’m going to schedule half of our games next year in this state, so he can feel like he’s at home and play like that every night. We had some great performances to overcome the serving, and that was huge for us.
Q: Coach can you talk a little bit about what this title means for eastern volleyball?
Hanson: Well I don’t know if it’s an East-West kind of thing. We have kids from California on our team, and we’re just trying to put the best volleyball team together that we can, from all over the country, with kids that want to play for Ohio State. It’s certainly nice to bring a title here, but I don’t like that comparison when it’s us against the West or the west against us. Our goal was to win a national championship, and we had to play two teams, one from here and one from out there. If we would have played two from out there I don’t think it would be any different, but I would to think that this will help our sport get better, that kids will see viable options across the country to play volleyball. That’s the part that I’m happiest about.
Q: Coach what did you guys do to shut down [Jeff] Menzel so well?
Hanson: Well I think part of it became our serving. We got them out of their system, and I think when he gets a higher ball and we can get guys in front of him, we can be effective. He is going to hit the block hard and we’ve taught our guys to do that in our gym as well. As blockers we know that if we can get a touch, we have some people that can transition the ball. He’s really good one-on-one, but we didn’t allow him any one-on-one opportunities. I know our serving looked abysmal in the first game, but we knew that if we stuck with it, it would create those chances that we got in the last game. I think when you hold an All-American to 12 kills on 40 swings and he hits .025, you’ve done a pretty good job. We just stuck with it over time.
Q: Talk about the mood after dropping that first set.
Steven Kehoe, setter: Since it’s been tournament time, we’ve lost the first set of a number of matches. We talk about that in the huddle. I definitely came out tense, and I think a lot of the guys did, especially from the service line. We knew if we stuck to our gameplan, we’d be all right. We know how well we can play. Like Coach said, we just needed to out-kill them and keep passing well, and things fell into place for us.
Q: Talk about that last triple block. Who got their hands on it and how sweet was it when the ball went down on the other side of the net?
Kehoe: Well I got it. [UCSB’s Jeff] Menzel was killing us. He didn’t hit for a great number, but he’s capable of some incredible swings. Our coaching staff told us if we blocked him once in the last five points, we would win the match. It was pretty sweet to make it that last point. I thought the coaching staff did an awesome job throughout game five to keep us steady, and make sure we knew what their offense was going to do.
Q: Talk about being able to out-physical one of the California teams.
John Klanac, outside attacker: This team has worked year-round in the weight room and conditioning with Andy Britton. We do everything together, on and off the court. The group in general just sticks together, and these are my best friends. What better way to go out than with a national championship.
Q: How sweet is it to win this title close to home?
Shawn Sangrey, outside attacker: Incredible. It’s so much fun with a cheering section like that, and winning it in front of family and friends is incredible -we are the best team in the country.
UC Santa Barbara news conference
Rick McLaughlin, coach: I’m extremely proud of my team and all of the seniors especially, for just having a great year. It was just an incredible effort by them. It started three years ago and they just gave it everything they had and just came up a little short, but man what a career for these guys.
Q: How hard is it to see your team fight to the fifth set and not get the win?
McLaughlin: Any time you lose, it’s tough. They fought back. They’ve fought all year. Ohio State deserved it. They were good.
Q: Did you feel the momentum was on your side after taking the fourth set?
McLaughlin: Sure, yeah. It’s anybody’s game in the fifth game, anybody’s match. Ohio State served the ball well in the last game and they blocked the ball. They did a real good job blocking. They took care of the big plays. They deserve it.
Q: What are your thoughts on Jeff Menzel this weekend?
McLauglin: Teams are going to kind of gang up on him. He has done a good job all year. If I were playing my own team, that’s the guy I would want to try to stop. They did a good job on it. They got us passing off the net. We didn’t pass well. That makes it hard for all of our guys: Cullen (Irons), Jeff (Menzel), Scott (Slaughter). Like I said, I’m real proud of our guys. Ohio State earned it. They served the ball well and got us in some problems.
Q: How did you feel after the fourth set?
Scott Slaughter, middle attacker: I felt good. We had momentum. They played a great game.They absolutely deserved it as Rick said. It was a dog fight. What more could you ask for, for a national championship fifth game? Both teams going at it. This was a great game. They came out on top. They got more stops than we did.
Q: What are your thoughts on how Shawn Sangrey played?
Slaughter: He played great and the numbers show it.
Q: How good were the Ohio State blocks?
Slaughter: They made the right moves at the right times. In the first set the missed a lot of serves, but if you’re swinging that hard eventually some of them are going to drop and that’s what started to happen. It started taking us out of our offense a little bit. We had to set some high balls and they had three up. They’re a great blocking team. If you get three up on a block you usually get some results.
Q: Are you able to put into perspective what you have accomplished?
Slaughter: Absolutely. When you lose a game like this, you can say “Oh my God it was a waste, we should have just lost first round.” Absolutely not. We did something that no one thought we could. We made one of the biggest runs in volleyball history I guess you could say. You could look back and say “Oh my God we lost in the finals,” but in the end you’ve got to realize you upset the No. 1 team at their house, the No. 2 team at their house. We beat Long Beach, a team that beat us twice. We beat USC again, which everyone thought we couldn’t do. By all means, everyone says we shouldn’t be here, but in the end, we played a great season. You can hang our head if you want but as long as you left it on the court there’s absolutely no reason to. I thought that we did that. I thought we left it all on the court. We went to five. There’s nothing you can regret.
Q: How did you feel after the fourth set?
Cullen Irons, outside attacker: We didn’t make the stops when we needed them. We played a good match and unfortunately we came out a little short. Ohio State, they played awesome. They were digging everything. They got a lot of blocks. Shawn Stangrey, we didn’t have an answer. That was just the difference right there, getting kills. He was over .300, almost .400. That’s the difference.