The Ohio State Buckeyes Men’s Volleyball team was recently in Hamilton, ON to play an exhibition match against McMaster University and Tip of the Tower caught up with OSU head coach Pete Hanson for an interview.
The Ohio State Men’s volleyball team is coming off their second national championship victory in the past five years and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Buckeyes are currently ranked No. 1 in the NCAA with a perfect 14-0 record and they have only dropped five sets on the entire season so far.
Ohio State is led by Pete Hanson, who is in the midst of his 33rd season as the head coach in Columbus and it’s his patient approach to his current squad of players that has helped propel the Buckeyes to their current height of success. Last year’s national championship winning squad didn’t start out with a great deal of confidence and Hanson pointed to a mid-season loss at home to Ball State as the turning point for his squad.
Hanson said: “We kind of let that game slip through our fingers after we were up 2-0.” He added: “We had a team meeting and asked if everybody was all in and were they all good with our system and trust what we are doing.”
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The airing of grievances following that meeting seemed to resonate with the Buckeye players and their momentum as a team appeared to grow following the tough loss, which eventually culminated in a huge 3-2 road win a few weeks later against then top ranked Long Beach State. The big win for Ohio State in the LBC helped create that moment of clarity for Hanson and his players, which then became the Buckeyes’ mantra for the national championship season.
Hanson said: “I looked at the kids in the locker room and said why not us?” He added: “We went out and won that one in five (sets) and you could see they had some real confidence in what they were doing and it just kind of kept going.”
On the floor, Ohio State is led by reigning National Player of the Year and AVCA First Team All-America Nicolas Szerszen. The 6-foot-4 junior Outside Hitter has been a French national player on the U19 and U21 level and is currently in the top 10 nationally in several statistical categories including No. 1 in aces, No. 4 in points per set and No. 8 in kills per set.
Miles Johnson, a 6-foot-6 senior opposite, was also an AVCA First Team All-American and was the MVP of the NCAA tournament. Johnson may be the most dominant player in the country so far in the 2016-17 season and is a native of Carlsbad, CA (which further highlights Hanson’s ability to recruit elite talent across the United States and internationally).
Johnson is currently leading the nation in points per set and is No. 3 in kills per set and No. 8 in hitting percentage. Senior setter Christy Blough was a Second Team All-American and the 6-foot-5 native of Ontario, NY is currently ranked No. 2 in the NCAA in assists per set.
Hanson talked about the pressure of trying to repeat as national champions. He has tried to set realistic goals for his program moving forward, especially with Ohio State being the host city for this year’s national championship between May 4-6.
Hanson said: “We just want to get back to the tournament in Columbus.” He added: “We’re hosting the doggone thing and it would be tough to have that going on in your own building and not be involved.”
Why not us was the mantra that propelled Hanson and his Buckeyes to the top of the mountain last season. Based on the team’s current run of form, the question being bandied about in Columbus right now should be; Why not us again?