Ohio State men’s volleyball sets sights on fourth NCAA championship since 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — After winning back-to-back conference tournament titles, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team now turns its attention to the next phase of the postseason: the NCAA tournament. OSU will face Grand Canyon in a national quarterfinal on Tuesday night in Long Beach, California.

And for Pacific Palisades-native Justin Howard, this week’s competition is less of a homecoming and more of a business trip as the Buckeyes try to win their fourth NCAA title since 2011.

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“I’m excited for it. There will be a lot of friends and family. It’ll be nice to go out there and feel a little bit closer to home,” Howard said. “We’re playing with that confidence and we know that we can go ahead and beat any team in the country because we have the players to beat any team in the country so it’s all about just putting together the right game plan and executing it.”

OSU is coming off its 19th Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament title after a four-set win over Lindenwood. It’s the latest achievement for a team that beat UCLA and USC in January, catapulting the Buckeyes to a No. 1 ranking for several weeks.

“I think it was tough for those guys to deal with those expectations on top of other adversity that was out of their control,” coach Kevin Burch said. “And to see that build their character and build their confidence and by the end of the year, really showing that confidence that they’ve earned, it really puts us in a good spot.”

Jacob Pasteur leads the Buckeyes attack with 379 kills and was one of four OSU players named to this year’s All-America teams by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. He’s also one of six seniors looking to end their Ohio State careers on the highest of notes.

“Just understanding that physically we match up with everybody very, very well and it’s all about who’s mentally there, who’s going to show up and perform when it matters most,” Pasteur said.

The winner of Tuesday night’s game, set for 10:30 p.m., will play in a national semifinal against either Belmont Abbey or Long Beach State on Thursday night. The national championship is set for Saturday at 5 p.m.

“They know how to win now. They know how to work hard. They know how to earn things,” Burch said. “And that’s a big reason why I’m so confident going into this championship. They know how to get it done and they know what it takes.”

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