It would have been close. Alex Gordon might have scored, particularly if he’d been in the mindset to do so all along. Or maybe not. I’m sure there will be Zapruder-film-type breakdowns, and I’ll look forward to seeing them. It would have been one hell of a moment: Gordon, 220 pounds, who looks like he could have been a strong safety at the University of Nebraska, bearing down on Buster Posey, the catcher whose season-ending injury in 2011 helped inspire baseball’s home-plate collisions rule.Your browser does not support iframes.Game 7 will leave us with that sense of what might have been. Partly because it involved the Kansas City Royals, who were making their first World Series appearance since 1985. But mostly I’m referring to that penultimate play: When Gordon hit what was officially scored as a single and wound up on third base because of defensive miscues by San Francisco Giants outfielders Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez. It seemed to take an eternity — it was actually just 13 seconds — but I was surprised that Gordon wasn’t rounding third base by the time the TV cameras returned to the infield.Here’s what I know: Gordon should have tried to score even if he was a heavy underdog to make it. It would have been the right move if he was safe even 30 percent of the time.Between 1969 and 1992 — I’m using this period because it better approximates baseball’s current run-scoring environment than the offensive bubble of the 1990s and aughts — a runner scored from third base with two outs about 27 percent of the time, according to the tables at Tangotiger.com. We should probably round that down a bit in this example. The Royals had Salvador Perez at the plate — a league-average hitter — and the light-hitting Mike Moustakas due up after that.More importantly, they were facing Madison Bumgarner. That Bumgarner had been so dominant in the World Series is not as relevant as you might think. There’s extremely little evidence for a “hot hand” in pitching: In-game performance tells you next to nothing about how the pitcher will fare in future at-bats. Instead, you should look toward longer-term averages. Still, I feel comfortable asserting that Bumgarner was an above-average pitcher at that moment: Certainly not the first guy you’d want to have on the mound if you were the opponent. So let’s round that 27 percent down to 25 percent.So, Gordon should have tried to score if he had even a 25 percent chance of being safe?It’s just a touch more complicated than that. With the Royals down 3-2, Gordon represented the tying run rather than the winning run. If he’s thrown out at home, the game’s over; it forecloses on the possibility of Perez scoring as the winning run, like with a walk-off homer. What was the probability of that? Perez homered in about 3 percent of his plate appearances this season, but he could also have scored in other ways — by doubling, for example, and then scoring on a base hit by Moustakas. We can turn to Tangotiger’s tables again, which suggest that a league-average batter has about a 6 percent chance (I’m rounding down slightly) of eventually scoring from home with two outs.So, after Gordon holds at third, he has a 25 percent chance of scoring. Six percent of the time, Perez (or pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson?) also scores, and the Royals win outright. The other 19 percent of the time, Gordon is the only Royal to score in the ninth and the game goes to extra innings. If we assume the Royals are even money to prevail in an extra-inning game, their chances of winning at that point are:6% + (19% * 50%)That works out to 15.5 percent. Not coincidentally, this matches FanGraphs’ in-game win probability for the Royals (after Gordon held at third) almost exactly.What if Gordon rounds third and tries to score? If he’s successful even 30 percent of the time, the Royals’ win probability is at least 15 percent — a 30 percent chance of Gordon scoring, multiplied by a 50 percent chance of the Royals winning in extra innings. But it’s slightly higher than that. The 30 percent of the time that Gordon scores, Perez still has his 6 percent chance of scoring the winning run in the ninth. That brings the Royals’ overall win probability up to about 16 percent.We’re splitting hairs. The point is that if even Gordon had been a 2-to-1 underdog to score, he should have tried.These decisions can be counterintuitive. Sometimes a strategy that’s successful less than 50 percent of the time — like splitting eights in blackjack — is still the right move because the alternative is even worse. In this case, the alternative involved trying to score against Bumgarner with your catcher at the plate and two outs, and then having to prevail in extra innings.It would have made for one of the best plays in baseball history. We’re talking about the tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 of the World Series: Even a sacrifice fly can be thrilling under those circumstances. But this would have been in a league with Bill Mazeroski and Kirk Gibson and Bill Buckner: under serious consideration for the greatest play of all-time. (The play already had a little Buckner in it, with Blanco’s and Perez’s misplays in the outfield.)Unlike any of those moments, it would have involved an incredibly gutsy decision. It’s an extraordinary play if Gordon scores. It’s an extraordinary play if there’s a collision at home plate — and baseball needs to decide whether to invoke the “Buster Posey Rule.”And if Gordon were thrown out, it would have been the most extraordinary way to lose a game in the history of baseball.CORRECTION (Oct. 30, 11:14 a.m.): A previous version of this article misstated the first name of a Kansas City Royals catcher. He is Salvador Perez, not Santiago Perez.
At CBSSports.com, the surge came even later. Bracket submissions to the site peaked at 11:59 a.m., according to spokeswoman Annie Rohrs. Deadlines are powerful motivating forces for journalists, tax filers, eurozone negotiators — and bracket pickers. The number of men’s NCAA Tournament brackets submitted per minute by ESPN.com users peaked at 11:51 a.m. EDT on Thursday, mere minutes before the 12:15 p.m tipoff of the first-round opener and the deadline to enter picks, according to data provided by our colleagues at ESPN.com.1Per their request, we’re sharing only the relative magnitude of submissions, not absolute numbers. The maximum rate of bracket submissions per minute on Thursday was more than three times the high of the day before and about five times the max on Monday and Tuesday. All told, even counting the wee hours in the U.S., there were more brackets submitted in just half of Thursday than in all of Tuesday. Not everyone waits until the last minute, though. At ESPN.com, there was an earlier, although lesser, spike in online bracket submissions just after the bracket went up. For every three people who were madly filling in chalk and upsets in their entries just before noon on Thursday, there were two hitting submit on theirs eight minutes after the first Tournament Challenge bracket was submitted at 7:12 p.m. on Sunday.Maybe it’s my bias as a journalist showing, but I think the procrastinators had the right idea: They could benefit from forecasts like ours.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 March Madness Predictions.
2016Danny Willett—————— Masters winners do their best work from tee to greenStrokes gained rankings by category for Masters Tournament winners during the seasons they won, 2004-18 As the world’s greatest golfers convene in Augusta, Georgia, this week for the Masters, it’s time for every sports fan’s annual rite of spring: wild speculation about whether Tiger Woods can add a fifth green jacket to his closet. Picking Woods used to be a trendy bet; then it began to feel like a totally futile exercise. Well after he last won the event in 2005, there was a period when Woods was in the news constantly for everything except golf success. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Woods’s relevance as a winning golfer seemed finished, along with his bid to chase down Jack Nicklaus’s record for all-time majors won.But that all changed last season, when Woods put everything back together again to finish eighth on the PGA Tour money list and win the season-ending Tour Championship in September. Now Woods is back, in his best position in years to win another Masters. According to VegasInsider, Woods has the third-best odds of any player to win this weekend; he’s also playing even more inspired golf than he did during last year’s comeback campaign. But at age 43, will this be one of Woods’s last chances to win at Augusta before his days of being a viable champion are over?Certainly, Tiger has been outplaying many of his much younger rivals these past few seasons. Since the end of his lost 2017 campaign, Woods ranks sixth among qualified1Minimum 30 total rounds measured by ShotLink, the PGA Tour’s real-time scoring system. PGA Tour players in total strokes gained per round, trailing only Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood. He’s mostly regained his old mastery of irons on approach shots and still has some of the game’s best feel for shots around the green. In terms of strokes gained, Woods is picking up 1.67 shots (relative to the average player) per round so far in 2019, an even better mark than the 1.60 he posted last season — which itself was easily his best performance in five years.One of the most impressive aspects of Woods’s early play this season has been improved accuracy off the tee. According to the PGA Tour, Woods has hit 65.2 percent of possible fairways on his drives this season, which ranks 54th out of 214 qualified players. That might not sound amazing, but by Woods’s standards, it is ultraprecise accuracy. Last year, he hit only 59.4 percent of fairways, which ranked him 127th, and he struggled to break 55 percent over the four injury-plagued seasons before that. (Even during his really great pre-scandal/injury seasons, hitting fairways was an Achilles’ heel. In 2007, when he made the most money playing golf of his career, Woods ranked 152nd in driving accuracy and failed to hit 60 percent of fairways.) When Woods is scuffling, the first indication is often a wayward drive that requires subsequent artistry just to make par.With the help of that improved accuracy, Woods now ranks 72nd in strokes gained on drives this year — he was 100th last year — and ninth in strokes gained from the tee to the green, picking up 1.48 shots per round before ever setting his spikes on the putting surface. Classic Tiger was always a tee-to-green monster, ranking either first or second in the category every healthy season from 2006 to 2013, so his strong performance in that category this year is another signal that Woods is returning to vintage form.It’s also a very good sign for his chances at Augusta. That’s because, as Todd Schneider wrote about for FiveThirtyEight a few years ago, the Masters often comes down to a player’s skills with the long clubs — contrary to the tournament’s reputation for being a putting contest.Great PGA Tour players generally assert themselves most on approach shots and drives anyway, gaining about 4 strokes relative to average from tee to green for every extra shot they pick up on putts. But the recent history of Masters winners also suggests that a great long game is the true prerequisite for winning the green jacket. The average winner since strokes gained was first tracked in 2004 (excluding the 2016 and 2017 winners, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia, because they lacked enough PGA Tour rounds to qualify for official leaderboards) ranked only about 86th in putting performance per round but 35th in strokes gained off the tee, 32nd in strokes gained on approach shots and 18th in total strokes gained from tee to green. 2008Trevor Immelman116501131191113 2018Patrick Reed104742297224 Strokes gained tee-to-green was the top category (or tied for the top) for 46 percent of the Masters winners over that span,2No other category was above 38 percent. and 62 percent of winners ranked among the Top 10 in the statistic — like Woods does this year. (This is consistent with my previous research that driving distance and approach accuracy are the two secret weapons players can possess at Augusta, causing them to play better in the Masters than their overall scoring average would predict.)I haven’t mentioned Tiger’s putting numbers yet, and with good reason. Woods used to be the greatest putter in the world, but so far this season he ranks just 74th in strokes gained with the flatstick, adding only 0.19 shots above average per round. Last year, he was better — 48th on tour — though he still wasn’t the putting maestro who once showed me and countless others the fundamentals of a great stroke. However, Augusta has frequently seen putters who rank far worse than Woods win during the era of detailed PGA Tour tracking data. (In fact, more than half of qualified Masters winners since 2004 have ranked worse than 78th in putting.) Putting performance is so random from year to year — much less from tournament to tournament or even round to round — that it’s a lot easier for a good tee-to-green player to get hot on the green for a weekend than for a good putter to suddenly have an uncharacteristically amazing weekend off the tee.Because of all this, it’s not hard to understand why Woods is a strong 12-to-1 bet to win the Masters. But it’s also not hard to imagine that this could be the 43-year-old’s last, best chance to win another green jacket. Using our research on historical major winners from a few years ago, here’s what the aging curve for championship golfers looks like: 2017Sergio García—————— 2015Jordan Spieth15117492 2007Zach Johnson613016460513 2013Adam Scott21677510811 2012Bubba Watson1598431606 2011Charl Schwartzel224564199620 Average34.531.970.018.486.121.2 2009Ángel Cabrera3748169636351 2014Bubba Watson2476371098 2005Tiger Woods44128451 YearMasters WinnerOff TeeApproachAround GreenTee to GreenPuttingTotal 2006Phil Mickelson124664405 PGA Tour Rank 2010Phil Mickelson66532513312 Garcia and Willett didn’t play enough rounds to qualify for the PGA Tour’s rankings during their Masters-winning seasons.Source: PGAtour.com 2004Phil Mickelson7224351289 That spike in wins for players in their early 40s came from 42-year-olds Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Payne Stewart, Tom Kite and Gary Player, and it was the last actual uptick on the chart — and Woods is now on the wrong side of it. Jack Nicklaus famously won his final major at age 46, but most great golfers are largely done winning by their early to mid-40s. And the game has only gotten younger in the twilight of Woods’s career; while the average major-winner in our data set above (through 2014) was 31.9, that number is just 29.6 in the years since. With his own early career dominance and popularity, Woods has inspired a younger generation of gifted golfers that he now must do battle with.Woods is a special talent and in the conversation for the greatest golfer ever.3Even though most fans still give Nicklaus the nod. He’s playing as well heading into Augusta as he has in a long time and excelling in exactly the right categories. But between aging effects and his own injury history, he may never have a better shot at winning another Masters than he does right now. Once upon a time, Tiger was legendary for pouncing on every opportunity left in front of him. We’ll just have to see if he can summon that ability yet again.
Share on Facebook For many of the teams on the list above, their peak Elo moment also coincided with the end of their schedule (and, usually, a national championship celebration). Alabama, however, still has some hurdles left to clear before it can become the best end-of-season Elo team ever. Specifically, the Tide need to beat both Washington and the Clemson-Ohio State winner to finish the year as national champs — and if they don’t, they’ll have peaked too soon. A loss to Washington, for instance, would instantly drop Alabama to No. 4 on the historical end-of-season Elo list if it comes by a field goal, and No. 10 if by a touchdown. It’s really hard to stay at the pinnacle of the game.For now, though, Nick Saban can toss another honor on his enormous pile of coaching accomplishments. His 2016 Crimson Tide are the strongest team in modern college football history. The SEC championship game on Saturday saw Alabama beat Florida to win the conference, as well as a spot in the College Football Playoff. Lower down the list of accolades was one we’d been following over the past month or so: The Crimson Tide became the greatest college team of the past 80 years, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo power rating.’Bama needed to beat Florida by 11 or more points to pass the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers for No. 1. And in actuality, they won by a lot more than that, whipping the Gators by 38. That did the trick, pushing the Crimson Tide ahead of any team since the AP poll era began in 1936.
But Nadal isn’t just winning matches on the surface he loves; he’s dominating them. Nadal’s dominance ratio, which is the measure of a player’s winning percentage when returning serve versus the opponent’s winning percentage on serve return points, is at the highest it’s ever been over the past two years. Essentially, his opponents are never safe on the court — Nadal can win any point at any time. In Barcelona this year, Martin Klizan lost his first set against Nadal at love, but he broke Nadal’s serve in the second set and led 5-3. Nadal held serve and then saved three set points against him to tie up the set at 5-5. Nadal proceeded to win the next two games to close out the match. Tennis has never seen a player who excels more on a single surface than Nadal. His career on clay boggles the mind. He owns a record that, in tennis, doesn’t compute — it shouldn’t be possible. His overall record on clay is 401-35: Yes, that’s 92 percent. In the Open era, which began in 1968, no other star in tennis has come close to that on any surface. The next highest winning percentage on clay comes from Bjorn Borg, who won 86 percent of his clay court matches — and he played far fewer matches than Nadal (294 in all on clay). The best players on other surfaces don’t match Nadal, either. Roger Federer has won eight Wimbledon titles, an all-time record, and 87 percent of his matches on grass, in 188 attempts. Pete Sampras, a seven-time Wimbledon winner, won 84 percent of his 121 total matches on grass. And Djokovic, winner of six titles at the Australian Open and two at the U.S. Open, has an 84 percent winning percentage in his 609 hard court matches. When Rafael Nadal arrives in Paris this season with a chance to win his 11th French Open title, he could be there in a way no one expected: better than ever on clay.Nadal, who will be 32 years old in June, should have been finished by now, especially on clay. It’s rare for players older than 30 to win the French Open, and Nadal had been on a downward trend. He didn’t win the tournament in 2015 or 2016, and he won just two clay tournaments in 2015. Even worse, he lost to Novak Djokovic that year in the French Open quarterfinals, a sure sign that he was no longer invincible. (Djokovic won in straight sets, including a deadly 6-1 in the third.) A year later, Nadal left the French Open after winning two rounds because of a wrist injury. Even at his best in those two years, he looked well behind Djokovic, who beat Nadal seven times in a row without losing a set, including three on clay.But instead of crumbling, Nadal has climbed back and become more dominant on clay than ever before. He’s done it with more powerful strokes, a stronger serve and more volleys — and, most important, the confidence that seemed to escape him several years ago. Since the start of last year’s French Open, Nadal hasn’t lost a set on clay in three tournaments plus two Davis Cup matches. That’s an all-time record of 46 clay court sets in a row, smashing the former record of 35 consecutive clay wins by Guillermo Coria. Nadal has come close to this before, too: Four other times in his career he won 30 or more consecutive sets on clay, according to the ATP World Tour. For all his dominance, the only accomplishment Nadal has yet to achieve is going undefeated in the four premier clay court tournaments1The Monte Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open, the Madrid Open and the Italian Open. and then winning the French Open in a single season. The closest he came was in 2013, when he lost the Monte Carlo final to Djokovic and then won his next four clay events, including the French Open. Last year was similar for Nadal: He won four clay tournaments but lost in the quarterfinals at the Italian Open, in straight sets to Dominic Thiem. He later thumped Thiem in straight sets in the French Open semifinals, finishing the match with a 6-0 set.For Nadal to win in Madrid and Italy this year, he’ll need to stay healthy and play as few taxing games as possible, as he has done so far. But no matter what happens in those tourneys, unless he’s hurt, he’ll be the heavy favorite to win the French Open, where his record is 79-2. Don’t be surprised if that turns into 86-2 come June.
FiveThirtyEight Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed The women’s side of the French Open has seen plenty of upsets. Only three of the 10 top-ranked players made it through the third round, with high-profile competitors such as No. 1 Naomi Osaka and No. 10 Serena Williams among them. After her loss to 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams, who has battled persistent injuries this season, was asked if she still would have entered the Open had she known the outcome. She said she would never have believed that she would be out in the third round. We’ll look at how Serena’s expectations fair against the growing parity in women’s tennis and how sharply this contrasts with the predictable cast of characters on the men’s side.The MLB draft is underway, and as Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen describes the experience, “the draft is very risky — it has always been risky.” The Hot Takedown team breaks down how this draft differs from other major sports, plus the strategies and trends exhibited in the early rounds.Finally, our Rabbit Hole of the Week looks at the Women’s College World Series. A dive into the key players and their professional pursuits lands us deep into the surprising world of Olympic demonstration sports.Here’s what we’re looking at this week:Justine Henin, the last “Queen of Clay.”Last year, our colleague Tom Perrotta wrote about the increased parity in women’s tennis, and it’s never felt more timely.ESPN’s Jeff Passan breaks down the convoluted MLB draft.Some MLB hopefuls are opting to play abroad rather than participate in the draft.Rachel Garcia’s impressive performance in the semifinals against the University of Washington.You won’t want to miss these videos of skijorning and korfball.
It’s pretty fitting that a guy like senior offensive lineman Scott Sika would be from a town called Strongsville, Ohio. But not just for the obvious reasons one would expect. Sika was able to walk on to the Ohio State team because of his heart and work ethic. But he is a pretty strong guy, too. Putting on the scarlet jersey and silver helmet was a lifelong dream for Sika. Nearly every member of his family went to OSU. He remembers watching every Buckeye game on Saturdays when he was growing up with his father, who went to optometry school at OSU. “He’s been a big influence in my life. He’s one of the main reasons why I chose to walk on too, because he would always tell me ‘you could play here,’ but you always have doubts in the back of your mind,” Sika said. “But once you get here you realize, as they say, fathers know best. Just his influence has helped me.” Choosing to walk on to OSU’s team did not come without any risks. He would not be guaranteed a scholarship, like he had been offered from smaller programs. Nor would he be guaranteed any playing time. But Sika never had a problem focusing on the positives. “I couldn’t pass up the chance. I really wanted to go to college here. Why not give it a try and play. It’s turned out really well for me,” he said. Sika said the rigors of playing for the scout team were difficult at first, but he always maintained a team-first mentality. “When I started I knew I was going to be on the scout team. Basically I’m here to help the team. Granted, I wish I could play as much as possible, but I’m just doing what I have to do to help the team,” Sika said. “It’s coaches’ decision, whether it’s playing scout team or playing with the twos, I just do what I do and I’ve enjoyed it.” While Sika’s father, brother, sister and mother all attended OSU, his uncle wore navy and maize as a football player for the Michigan Wolverines. “It was pretty ironic,” he quipped. “We always gave each other a hard time. Every week he says he roots for us, aside from when we play Michigan obviously. We go at it, but the last couple years I’ve easily had the upper hand and he hasn’t been able to say much. It’s a fun relationship, we go back and fourth but he just wants the best for me.” The memories of multiple BCS games, including a couple National Championship games and the Rose Bowl, will stay with Sika, But he said aside from all the obvious big stages he’s seen, it’s been the relationships he’s built with his teammates that he’ll remember most. Sika will be graduating with a degree in sports management. He plans on using everything he’s learned as a football player at OSU and the connections he’s made to help him in the professional world. But no matter what, he’ll always remember the feeling he had when he first realized he was a Buckeye. “It was surreal,” he said. “As I tell a lot of people, you don’t really understand it when you’re doing it. Sometimes you sit back and say to yourself ‘wow, I’m playing for the second ranked team in the nation.’ “You get to play where Orlando Pace and Eddie George played. It’s just an honor and you don’t realize it when you’re here but once you’re gone … it’s just memories and I’m so thankful to have had an opportunity.”
Junior center Amir Williams (23) walks down the court during a game against Morgan State Nov. 9 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won, 89-50.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorThough a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school in 2011, Ohio State junior center Amir Williams’ first two seasons as a Buckeye were a bit of a disappointment.A four-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American before donning the Scarlet and Gray, Williams at times seemed a step slow, tentative and unsure of his talents in his first two seasons in Columbus. He averaged just 2.6 points over those two seasons, despite seeing action in 66 games and starting 26.That all took a back seat Wednesday, when Williams posted a career-best 16 points and collected seven rebounds against American University. He scored six of OSU’s first eight points of the game, keeping the ship afloat as his teammates struggled, prompting praise from coach Thad Matta.“Thank goodness Amir got us off to a pretty decent start there and was making some shots,” Matta said about OSU’s early shooting struggles against the Eagles. The Buckeyes (4-0, 0-0) only shot 25.9 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes.Williams is averaging 9.5 points over his team’s four games this season, and he said the difference has been the result of hard work.“I’ve just been working my tail off in the offseason and during practice as well,” Williams said following his big night against American (1-3, 0-0). “(I) try to have some go-to moves in the post and it’s looking like it’s finally starting to come alive.”A few of those go-to moves were useful against American, as Williams knocked down baby hook shots with both his right and left hands — something that wasn’t seen out of him last year, but Matta had been expecting.“I’ve seen Amir — really he’s been more energized, more aggressive. He’s been practicing very well. He’s been dominant in practice,” Matta said after the game. “You saw him (against American), he was catching the ball, he was making his reads, he knew where guys were supposed to be and going and making his moves. I thought his patience was really good as well.”Williams’ improvement has not gone unnoticed by his teammates either.“What we saw the other night (against American) is the Amir we’ve been seeing for the last five, six months, however long it’s been since the end of last season,” junior forward Sam Thompson said Sunday. “Amir’s put a ton of work in, put countless hours in the gym working on every aspect of his game, (and he’s) really looking to improve on the season that he had last year. Early on this season, it’s been evident by the work that he’s done.”Williams has also been a force on the defensive side of the ball, using his 85.5-inch wingspan to his advantage to block nine shots already in four games.“That’s something I like, him plugging the middle down there,” Matta said Sunday. “He’s got, as we’ve seen for two and a half years now, he’s got very good timing and a sense of where the ball is (defensively).”Williams’ activity on that side of the ball has stemmed throughout the rest of his game, allowing him to grow into more of a leader, Thompson said.“Amir’s been aggressive. Amir’s been active. Amir’s been getting it done,” Thompson said. “Amir’s really been the guy yelling at a lot of us and he’s really emerged as a leader on this team.”The growth in production from Williams early in the 2013-14 season has partly been because of a growth in confidence in his own ability.“I’m starting to feel a lot more confident and making moves in the post and I just hope I can keep the confidence up and continue to make those moves,” Williams said. “Continue to make those baskets down low for my team so I can just try to help them night in and night out.”Williams and the Buckeyes are slated to continue their non-conference schedule Monday when they play host to the Wyoming Cowboys (4-1, 0-0). Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
Freshman outsider hitter Miles Johnson (13) attempts to spike the ball during a match against Grand Canyon Feb. 21 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-0.Credit: Jonathan McAllister / Lantern photographerThe Buckeyes were successful at their chance for revenge against the Grand Canyon Antelopes, finishing with a clean sweep.The No. 14 Ohio State men’s volleyball team took down Grand Canyon 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-20) Saturday and 3-0 (25-18, 31-29, 25-23) Friday in Columbus.The Buckeyes (7-6. 4-2) were preparing their offense all week prior to the match against the Antelopes (6-9, 0-6), said coach Pete Hanson. OSU put the offensive practice to work and averaging 45 kills during the two matches against Grand Canyon.“If the offense is producing at a very high level, it can erase some of your bad spots that you are trying to cover up … If we can get our offense to play at a steady level, we are going to have the chance to be successful night in and night out,” Hanson said.During Saturday’s match, redshirt-freshman middle blocker Driss Guessous had a match-high 11 kills for OSU and finished the match with a .474 attack percentage. Freshman outside hitter Miles Johnson added nine kills and two solo blocks, while junior middle blocker Dustan Neary and redshirt-junior opposite Andrew Lutz each totaled eight kills. Freshman setter Christy Blough had a match-best 37 assists and chipped in two solo blocks and two kills.Senior middle blocker Jonathan Newton said winning the match came down to stopping the Antelopes early.“We knew that to be able to control the game, we had to stop their (Grand Canyon) momentum from the beginning,” Newton said.Lutz led the squad with 13 kills Friday, while Johnson added a career-best 11. Guessous and junior outside hitter Michael Henchy finished with nine and eight kills, respectively. Blough had a match-best 40 assists Friday night.Henchy said Saturday the Buckeyes are on the cusp of reaching the level of play they have been striving to acheive.“We are coming more and more into form and we’re not too far away from being a great team,” Henchy said.OSU is set to close out its five-match home stand as it hosts No. 13 Ball State Wednesday. The No. 14 Buckeyes and the Cardinals are scheduled to face off at 7 p.m. in St. John Arena.
Ohio State senior setter Christy Blough sets the middle for redshirt sophomore Blake Leeson against Quincy on April 15 at St. John Arena. Credit: Aliyyah Jackson | Lantern reporterThe No. 2 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (28-2, 17-0 MIVA) is headed to the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Semifinals after downing Quincy University (7-22, 2-14 MIVA) in straight sets. After meeting three times, Saturday’s win was OSU’s first sweep of the Quincy Hawks this season.In OSU’s shortest match of the season, OSU’s offense was aided in large part by junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen. Szerszen, who was named MIVA Player of the Year on Tuesday, led the team with 13 kills on 19 errorless attempts. “I think that Nic Szerszen playing like the player of the year kind of really helped us step up and win it in three,” senior middle blocker Driss Guessous said. “I think when he has a good game, it’s a lot easier for all of us to play better.”After stringing together four straight points to begin the first set, the Buckeyes controlled the lead throughout the set. The Hawks were only able to score back-to-back points on one occasion in the first frame, losing 14-25.The Hawks struggled to get points on offense, with the team hitting at a rate of .045 in the set. On the other side of the net, the Buckeyes had a .522 attacking efficiency. Senior opposite Miles Johnson and Szerszen combined to give the Buckeyes three aces in the set. “I commended Nicolas after the match,” head coach Pete Hanson said. “I thought Nicolas was the guy who set the tone in that regard that he just played, I thought, a relentless match tonight.”Much like the first set, the Hawks never saw a lead in the second set, trailing by as much as six points midway through the second set. A 5-1 run helped the Hawks battle back make the score 13-15, but they ultimately fell to the Buckeyes 20-25.In the second set, the Buckeyes improved their attacking rate to .526 and stuffed the Hawks on six occasions. Senior setter Christy Blough accounted for two blocks on his own. The Hawks hit better in the second set as well with the team improving to a .263 hitting rate.“What we talked about in the locker room or what I asked them to do was to play as hard and with as much energy as we could from the time the whistle blew to the time the play was over,” Hanson said. “Whether we made a mistake or not was kind of immaterial, but it was about our effort. It was about our commitment to making a lot of plays.”After a short intermission, OSU led 11-3 with Quincy’s only points coming from Buckeye service errors. The rest of the set mirrored the beginning and OSU took the third frame 25-15.The Hawks were unable to find an answer on offense in their final set of the season. The team paired six kills with six attacking errors. OSU, on the other hand, had 13 kills and two attacking errors to close out the match.With the win, the Buckeyes move on to the MIVA Semifinals and face either No. 11 Ball State University or No. 12 Loyola University, Chicago. First serve is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in St. John Arena.