Grand Canyon surges past Ohio State to advance to NCAA semifinals

Photo by Vinnie Lopes

Cameron Thorne made it clear during the postmatch news conference the level of confidence he has in his team.

The All-MPSF middle attacker sitting behind a table with a microphone in front of him and facing the media pointedly said the win in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals was just the beginning of what the Antelopes will accomplish at the NCAA Tournament.

“We are going to win Thursday [in the semifinals], and we are going to win it all,” Thorne said.

Based on Thorne and Grand Canyon’s level of play in the quarterfinals, there is a reason for that confidence.

Thorne finished with a match-high five blocks and had six kills on a .667 attack percentage as the No. 3 seed Grand Canyon swept the No. 6 seed Ohio State 25-23, 25-20, 25-21 on Tuesday in Long Beach, California.

Both Grand Canyon’s starting middle attackers did not commit an attack error against the Buckeyes. Along with Thorne, Rico Wardlow had seven kills and zero errors on a team-best .778 attack percentage to help the Antelopes win their first NCAA Tournament match in program history.


Setter Nicholas Slight guided the offense to out-hit Ohio State .333 to .240, including Grand Canyon having a match-best .423 attack percentage in the opening game.

Outside attacker Camden Gianni led the Antelopes with 12 kills to extend his streak of seven consecutive matches with double-digit kills. Opposite Jarrett Anderson added eight kills, while outside attacker Jackson Hickman had seven kills.

Ohio State opposite Shane Wetzel in the loss had a team-high 12 kills. All-American outside attacker Jacob Pasteur finished with 11 kills but was limited to a .103 attack percentage.

Middle attacker Cole Young also had nine kills and hit a team-best .727.

Grand Canyon in the third game limited Ohio State to a match-low .156 attack percentage. The Antelopes midway through the game went on a 4-0 run that featured a kill and a block from Thorne to give the team a five-point lead.

Grand Canyon led by as many as six points and was at match-point. However, Pasteur had back-to-back kills and then an ace to fight off three match-points before committing a match-ending serving error.

Ohio State was within one point of Grand Canyon late in the second game before a Hickman kill and three consecutive attack errors expanded the Antelopes’ lead to four points. Hickman also at game-point forced an overpass from the Buckeyes’ serving receive resulting in Thorne delivering the game-winning kill.

Grand Canyon and Ohio State were tied at 18-18 in the opening game before the Antelopes went on a 4-1 run that was capped off with an ace from Gianni. The Buckeyes rallied to fight off two game-points, but Hickman was able to deliver an out-of-system game-winning kill to prevent overtime.

Grand Canyon with this victory will advance to play the No. 2 seed Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday. Long Beach hit more than .400 as it swept the No. 7 seed Belmont Abbey in its quarterfinal match on Tuesday.

This will be the second consecutive year the Antelopes and Beach have met in the NCAA Tournament. Long Beach State defeated Grand Canyon in the NCAA Tournament opening round last season.