May 7, 2016
It appeared to be the moment the No. 1-ranked BYU men’s volleyball team had been waiting for to seize control of Saturday’s NCAA national championship match in State College, Pa., against No. 2 Ohio State.
The Cougars, who had led the Buckeyes for almost the entire first set, had failed to capitalize on three straight set-point opportunities.
But BYU kept the pressure on and finally got a chance to put it away.
The ball got sent wide to All-American sophomore opposite Ben Patch — but in disbelief Cougar supporters could only watch the ball sail long.
Suddenly, the Buckeyes had new life.
A few points later, after BYU failed on six straight set points, Ohio State used a tip to capitalize on their first set point and win the first frame.
The Buckeyes never looked back from there, sweeping the Cougars in three straight sets (32-30, 25-23, 25-16).
“Hats off to Ohio State,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said after the match. “They put together a remarkable season. They were absolutely the better team tonight. These are the moments when you have to dig deep and be as composed as you can. They put a lot of pressure on us that we just couldn’t overcome in the end. I’m proud of the guys for an outstanding season.”
Ohio State outplayed the Cougars the key serve and serve-receive categories, allowing the Buckeyes to run their offense while BYU was forced to scramble on many possessions.
The Cougars used their signature blocking ability and the consistent hitting of sophomore outside hitter Brenden Sander (14 kills, .500 hitting percentage) to maintain a lead for most of the first two sets.
In Set No. 2, BYU went in front 20-17 after a kill by junior outside hitter Jake Langlois.
But once again the Cougars failed to take advantage of the lead and finish off the frame. Instead it was the Buckeyes who elevated their game.
Ohio State scored seven of the next eight points, with the only exception being a service error. While the Buckeyes did get three kills and an ace, three of those points came off BYU hitting errors.
Fittingly, the Cougars gave up the final point of the frame on a service error, handing Ohio State the commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
With that advantage and their confidence soaring, the Buckeyes teed off from behind the service line and kept BYU reeling.
A series of five straight Ohio State points included two aces from sophomore Nicolas Szerszen and gave the Buckeyes a big 13-7 lead.
The Cougars made one final push to try to rally as they scored three straight and had a chance to make it four when a powerful BYU serve forced an Ohio State overpass.
Cougar sophomore middle blocker Price Jarman, however, sailed the attack wide and the Buckeyes pulled away to complete the sweep.
Ohio State’s Miles Johnson led a balanced attack with 15 kills, while middles Blake Leeson (11 kills, .846 hitting percentage) and Driss Guessous (10 kills, .571 hitting percentage) kept the BYU defense completely off-balance.
Overall the Cougars were proud of the season they had but disappointed not to have been able to take advantage of their opportunities in the final match.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at (801) 344-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.