The defending NCAA Division I Men’s Volleyball Champions, The Ohio State Buckeyes, entered the 2016 NCAA Tournament as underdogs. They were widely considered “less than likely to win it”, a badge the team was not willing to put on. Match by match, the team worked their way into the final four. In a five-set thriller versus UCLA in the semis, and a clean sweep of the number one ranked BYU in the finals, the Buckeyes ended the season in style with the trophy and the title.
The Buckeyes kicked off the 2017 season in the same fashion they had ended the prior season, a win streak. The 2016 squad unknowingly ended the season on a twenty three match win streak that was built up to 42 by March of the 2017 season. We had the opportunity to meet with the coaching staff shortly after the streak had ended and discovered that while they considered the streak an accomplishment, it was never a focus. Assistant Coach Embaugh explained, “The streak doesn’t matter, but you don’t win that many matches in a row without being really strong mentally.” While the staff was pleased with the wins the team had accumulated, they were overjoyed at the mental fortitude and maturity the team displayed throughout the process; the same kind that it takes to win championships.
Having a season like the one the Buckeyes have is no common feat, it requires a mental resilience that stems from the mentality of the coaching staff. Assistant Coach Burch describes their thought process as, “When you get punched, how do you respond?” How can you lose a point, a set, or a match and push through? Rolling with the punches throughout the season can be physically and mentally draining, but there is nothing but excitement here in Columbus for the 2017 NCAA Men’s Volleyball tournament. The team holds seven graduating seniors, who realize the amount of time left in their collegiate careers is about to run out. When we asked Coach Hanson about any nerves or excitement for the team in the upcoming NCAA tournament, he responded as only a coach of his experience would, “We’ll (coaching staff) talk about embracing the moment, how this is something they can cherish forever and very few teams will have the opportunity to do it. By the virtue of our own play, we’ll have a chance to compete on our home floor, in front of our home fans, and who wouldn’t want that.”
This year, the NCAA Men’s Volleyball tournament will be held in Columbus, Ohio, making it the first city to host both the women’s and men’s NCAA volleyball championships in the same year. In addition, this will be the third time that Ohio State has hosted the NCAA tournament while Coaches Hanson and Embaugh have been involved with the program. The Buckeyes were disappointedly not part of the action in either 1997 or 2007, and the coaching staff unanimously decided they did not desire to feel that way on their home court again. Their determination has paid off. This year, the Buckeyes will experience playing in the NCAA Tournament in their city, at their University as the #1 seed.
The NCAA tournament will be held solely in St. John Arena on The Ohio State University campus. The semi finals will be May 4th and the finals on May 6th. The championship finals will also be broadcasted nationally on ESPNU. Tickets can be easily purchased on The Ohio State Men’s Volleyball team page or at ncaa.com, under tickets. We highly encourage you to watch the NCAA Men’s Volleyball tournament in May to witness some of the most elite level of volleyball played in the country. Some of the players that will be in attendance at the tournament are current All-Americans, soon to be professional international athletes, as well as future Olympians.
Former Ohio State Men’s Volleyball Player and Current Sports Imports Intern