The battle for Ohio State’s starting setter will not be settled when the upcoming season begins.
Ohio State coach Pete Hanson said in an interview with Off the Block on Tuesday that he has not decided on a permanent starting setter and will give both junior Peter Heinen and freshman Christy Blough significant playing time at the start of the regular season.
“I think it will play out throughout the season,” Hanson said. “[Blough] does some things a little bit better, a little bit different than Peter, and Peter does some things a little better and a little different than Christy. I think it’s going to be a week-to-week, match-to-match type of thing.”
Heinen has been the Buckeyes’ starting setter for the two last years. The junior also ended the 2013 season second in the nation with a 10.97 assists per game average and had six matches with at least 50 assists.
Blough begins his college career after leading his high school team to three state championships and earning high school First-Team All-American honors. In addition, he was the starting setter and captain for the U.S. Boys Youth National Team — which qualified for the 2013 FIVB U-19 Youth World Championship that was played in the summer.
Hanson said Blough’s performance during the fall preseason helped put him in a position to be considered for the starting setter position as a freshman.
“Christy is a mature kid. He’s an intelligent kid. He certainly understands what we are trying to do, but he’s still a freshman,” Hanson said. “He has some growing pains and some things that he has to keep working through.”
One sign of maturity from Blough, Hanson said, came during the off-season when the setter opted to play for the United States instead of his club team at the national championships.
The Youth World Championship and the U.S. training session for that international tournament this summer was scheduled at the same time of the USA Volleyball Boys Junior National Championship. As a result, several of the nation’s top players had to make the decision to play for either the United States at the Youth World Championship or their club team at nationals.
“That’s a pretty mature thing for a young kid to do,” Hanson said. “You look at that [U.S.] roster, there weren’t too many kids that were willing to do that for two years in a row, but he was one of them. That seemed to be a pretty special thing for us.”
Ohio State ended last season begin upset in the MIVA Tournament quarterfinals — the first time in almost a decade that it did not reach at least the conference tournament semifinals. The Buckeyes, though, return a majority of starters and were ranked No. 12 in the preseason national coaches poll.
Ohio State will open its season with three non-conference matches against nationally ranked teams at the Outrigger Invitational starting Jan. 9.
Despite who is the starting setter for Ohio State in those matches, Hanson said he views the position battle as something that will benefit the team throughout the season.
“We know that we have two legitimate options,” the coach said. “It’s a good competitive thing to have in your gym.”