In sports, a chance to play for a championship of any kind on your home floor or field is a rarity. However, that opportunity is one the Ohio State men's volleyball team is faced with starting tonight.
The Buckeyes are set to host Hawaii on its home floor at St. John Arena at 8 p.m. in the national semifinals on May 4, with a shot at a second straight national title on the line. Ohio State shocked the volleyball world a season ago, defeating No. 2 seed UCLA in the semifinals before stunning No. 1 seed BYU in three sets to take just its second crown in school history.
This season, it's the Buckeyes with the target on their backs. Ohio State enters the semifinal game against the Warriors tonight as the No. 1 seed, carrying a 30-2 overall record into the game. Hawaii earned the right to play the Buckeyes after defeating Penn State in five sets May 2 at St. John Arena.
"This is something that the kids worked hard for,” head coach Pete Hanson said May 1. “Getting a chance to defend our title at St. John Arena is really cool. I think the guys believe in what we are doing, and I think they are confident about their abilities to play. It is tough to chase something you have already achieved. The guys are champing at the bit. They are ready to get going."
Senior libero and outside hitter Gabriel Domecus said May 1 that the opportunity to play for a national title on his home floor is something he is not taking for granted.
"It's awesome. The timing worked out great for us," Domecus said. "We are all looking forward to it obviously. It means a lot to be able to stay in Columbus, stay local in front of our fans. It is a neat experience for us."
Ohio State has not played since April 22, when it defeated Quincy University in the MIVA conference tournament title game, 3-0. Domecus said the Buckeyes are anxious to get back onto the floor and defend their 2016 title.
"It is tough to have to sit out the first match and have to watch the other schools play," he said. "But I think everyone is ready to go and antsy to get on the court and play because being here in front of our fans is going to be so much fun."
Should Ohio State defeat Hawaii, the Buckeyes would face the winner of the Long Beach State vs. BYU matchup which is set to start at 6 p.m. tonight. The semifinal games are set to be televised on NCAA.com while the national final will be televised on ESPN2 Saturday at 7 p.m.