Grudge match: No. 8 BYU men’s volleyball sets to host No. 15 Ohio State

After a month-long road trip, No. 8 BYU men’s volleyball returns home to the Smith Fieldhouse to face a familiar foe in No. 15 Ohio State.

In fact, the Buckeyes may be a little too familiar.

On Jan. 11, 1990, the first-ever BYU men’s volleyball squad stepped on the court to play its inaugural match against none other than the Ohio State Buckeyes. The match favored the Cougars, who finished off Buckeyes in four sets to get their first win ever.

Over the next 26 years, the teams met another 14 times, with the Cougars dominating the series 10-4. BYU even won three national championships over that span to the Buckeyes’ one. However, things would all change in 2016.

In Shawn Olmstead’s first year as head coach, the Cougars were a wrecking crew. Led by Brenden Sander, Ben Patch and Jake Langlois, BYU went 27-4, won the MPSF championship and earned the top seed in the NCAA Tournament. After beating 4-seed Long Beach State in the semifinal game, the Cougars met up with third-seeded Ohio State in the national championship game. Led by the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Miles Johnson, the Buckeyes pulled off the upset and swept the heartbroken, tourney-favorite Cougars 32-30, 25-23 and 25-17.

Sander, Patch and Langlois all returned in 2017 with a singular goal: do what they couldn’t do last year and hang another national championship banner in the SFH. After a 25-4 record, the Cougars found themselves a 3-seed in an NCAA Tournament hosted by the defending champion Buckeyes. After pulling off wins against 6-seed Barton and 2-seed LBSU, Olmstead and company got their wish for a chance at redemption in the national championship, but alas, it was not to be. The Cougars once again fell to the Buckeyes, losing in straight sets 25-19, 25-20 and 25-22.

Even though the Cougars beat the Buckeyes 3-2 on their home court mere months after that second title loss, and swept the match in 2019, the Buckeyes still seem to have gotten the last laugh. Ffor Olmstead and the Cougars, however, there’s nothing they can do about it except win this weekend.

Both BYU (10-6) and Ohio State (11-6) have had their ups and downs this season, with the “downs” coming a little more recently than the “ups.” Both teams are coming off of disappointing, winless weekends, as the Cougars fell 3-0 and 3-2 at No. 5 Grand Canyon and Ohio State fell to No. 15 Charleston, which dropped the Buckeyes from No. 13 to No. 15 in the AVCA Coaches Poll.

Though they have only won one match of six against higher ranked teams, BYU has a solid 9-1 record against teams ranked lower than them and are a perfect 6-0 at home, while the Buckeyes are 0-4 vs teams ranked higher than them and haven’t won at the Smith Fieldhouse since 2000.

Head Coach Kevin Burch will look to junior outside hitter Jacob Pasteur and senior middle blocker Samuel Clark to carry the Buckeye’s offense, as those two account for nearly 50% of the team’s kills on the year. Ohio State also rank fourth nationally in assists per set at 11.97, led by junior setters Noah Platfoot and Michael Wright.

For the Cougars, it will be about putting together a clean, complete match. In their 3-0 loss to Grand Canyon last week, BYU had seven more errors and allowed the Antelopes to hit .413. The second match, which the Cougars lost in a hotly contested five sets, they held GCU to .321 hitting and committed 23 less errors than GCU. Needless to say, if they can play like that again this weekend, they can easily come away with two wins.

The matches will be played at 7 p.m. at the Smith Fieldhouse on both Friday and Saturday. Live broadcasts of the both matches can be found on the BYUtv App and byutv.org, with Saturday’s match broadcast on BYUtv as well.

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