Winning a NCAA Title is Sweet, Winning a Second on Your Home Court is Sweeter

By Kevin Harrish on May 6, 2017 at 11:07 pm
Ohio State celebrates its NCAA title on its home court.

Christy Blough set a ball to Nicolas Szerszen and the 2016 National Player of the Year and 2017 NCAA Tournament MVP spiked it down with authority, leaving BYU players hopelessly squirming in desperation to reach it.

They did not.

It was a microcosm of the Ohio State men's volleyball team's season — one of the nation's top setters setting up one of the nation's top attackers. Fittingly, it was also the final point the the 2017 NCAA Tournament championship match, giving the Buckeyes the three-set sweep, the win and the national championship.

Ohio State was no stranger to the euphoria that ensued; the squad topped the same BYU team in last season's NCAA title match with an identical score with nearly the same roster. This time though, the win was a little sweeter, because when that spike found the hardwood on the other side of the net, the Buckeyes weren't celebrating alone. They were celebrating on their own court in front of a home crowd of over 8,000 elated fans.

“I’m kind of at a loss for words," senior Miles Johnson said after the game. "It was the craziest crowd I’ve ever played in front of. It was just an amazing experience and I’m going to hold it pretty dear for my entire life.”

More than just spectating and celebrating, the home crowd helped lift the Buckeyes early in the match and carry them through to victory.

Ohio State found itself trailing 8-7 during the first set with BYU starting to gain momentum. Seeming to sense the importance of the moment, the crowd got loud as the Cougars' Joseph Grosh lined up to serve and grew louder when his serve went awry.

You can’t quantify that. That was absolutely unbelievable."– Pete Hanson

When Blough took the next two serves for the Buckeyes and delivered back-to-back aces, the crowd was almost uncontainable.

“They’ve helped us through some rough spots," Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said of the crowd. "That’s the roughest spot to be in is when you’re in a national championship match and you’re down and the team that’s been hunting you for 365 days is coming at you."

“You can’t quantify that," Hanson said. "That was absolutely unbelievable."

Maybe you can quantify it.

From that point, the Buckeyes went on a 9-1 run to take a decisive lead in the set and the Cougars never really recovered. Ohio State never trailed in the second set, winning it 25-20 and though BYU fought in the third, Szerszen's nine kills were too much for the Cougars to overcome and the Buckeyes completed the sweep with a 25-22 win in set three.

It all started with a raucous crowd during set one, and when the confetti settled, the Buckeyes didn't forget that. They looked toward the stands — trophies in hand — and gave a hearty "O-H" to those still in attendance.

Ohio State won its second-straight national title and third in program history, but it was the first on its home court. While the Buckeyes will continue to be a powerhouse and may compete for a title once again in 2018 with Szerszen returning for his senior season, they know they won't match this experience anytime soon.

"I kind of feel bad for Nick (Szerszen) because I don’t think it’s going to be able to get much better than this," Bough joked. "I mean, a three-peat would be pretty sweet, but I don’t know. In front of this crowd was pretty amazing.”

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