We allowed them to get going again from the service line. It's hard, but that's what I thought it was. —BYU coach Shawn Olmstead
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the second time in as many years, and in much of the same fashion both years, the BYU men's volleyball team was swept away by Ohio State (25-19, 25-20, 25-22) in the NCAA championship match on Saturday.
This time around it was on Ohio State's home venue at St. John's Arena, in front of 8,205 fans, most of which wore the Buckeye red — creating an unusual advantage for an NCAA championship match.
The Buckeyes took full advantage and proved perhaps even more dominant than in last year's sweep over BYU for the title.
Once again it was the Buckeyes' serving that dictated play, and before the Cougars could settle in, they saw themselves immediately down 3-0. They then rallied to take at 8-7 before Ohio State's biggest weapon kicked in, which is a punishing service game unrivaled by any team in the country.
With their serve clicking as well as it has all year, Ohio State ripped off a 9-1 run midway through the first set to take a commanding 19-10 lead.
“It just felt like we allowed them to go on some runs, and that killed us,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. “We allowed them to get going again from the service line. It’s hard, but that’s what I thought it was.”
At that point, Olmstead decided to pull Tim Dobbert from the lineup and insert Ben Patch at the opposite hitter position, and although the former All-American provided a spark, the hole the Cougars dug far to deep, as the Buckeyes took the first set 25-19.
Olmstead then pulled Patch and went with Dobbert to start the second set, with largely the same results as the first. This time it was a 7-2 run by the Buckeyes that put the home team up 21-13, but this time about half of the run was made after Patch was inserted into the lineup.
As to his decision when to go to Patch in place of Dobbert, it was all about following the game plan, according to Olmstead.
“We felt like we needed a spark, and Ben brought that,” Olmstead said. “And then there’s the overall approach to the game plan that our coaches go through and so that approach to that game plan was sort of that back-and-forth, but Ben did a great job.”
Patch ultimately finished with six kills on a .333 hitting percentage and played the entire third set.
That third set got off to a good start for the Cougars, as the offense seemed to finally settle in and establish some consistent rhythm.
“I think the guys got a little more settled with their passing in the third set, so things were good for us,” said BYU setter Leo Durkin.
Durkin's team jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, but squandered it when Ohio State pushed through for a 12-11 advantage midway through. From there the Cougars kept things relatively close until a couple of mishits and Ohio State service aces provided a late edge, as the Buckeyes closed out the match 25-22 for consecutive NCAA championships.
Once again it was tournament MVP Nicolas Szerszen leading the way for the Buckeyes — scoring a match-high 16 kills on a .480 hitting percentage while scoring three aces. His stats told only part of the story, as he led an Ohio State serve that completely squandered any opportunity for the Cougars to get in effective rhythm for much of the match.
Most affected by Ohio State's serve was BYU All-Americans Jake Langlois and Brenden Sander, who combined for 15 kills, but on a combined .200 hitting percentage.
“I just felt like we couldn’t quite get things going with those guys,” Olmstead said. “They did their best, but Ohio State was letting it rip from the service line, so they dug in there the best they could but with our passing being what it was — it just didn’t allow those guys to be freed up.”
Overall, Ohio State out-hit BYU .358 to .243, which underscored the difference in the match.
Although the Cougars appeared overwhelmed for too much of Saturday's match, players and coaches felt the team was cool and collected — unaffected by the home crowd.
“I don’t think the guys were rattled at all,” Durkin said. “We fought until the very end, and obviously you can’t hear us in the huddle, and you can’t see the looks in the guy’s eyes when we’re out there, but the guys did a great job. It was just uncharacteristic mistakes.”