MIVA Tourn: GCU men’s volleyball upsets No. 11 Ohio State

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                </div>The Antelopes’ men’s volleyball players threw everything they had at Ohio State in the quarterfinal round of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Tournament.  It paid off handsomely as Grand […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The Antelopes’ men’s volleyball players threw everything they had at Ohio State in the quarterfinal round of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Tournament.  It paid off handsomely as Grand Canyon University beat the Buckeyes, the No. 11 team in the nation – and on Ohio State’s own floor at St. John Arena.

The stunning 3-2 upset over the 2011 national champion will be rewarded with a semi-final match against the tournament’s top seed, Lewis University, tomorrow in Romeoville, Ill.

Five GCU attackers had seven or more kills apiece, Ryan Mather set a new school record for total blocks in a season by contributing three against the Buckeyes, senior libero Trent Bruns was just one shy of his season-best 18 digs, and third-year setter Keith Smith finished the match with 48 assists.

It was the first time in nine meetings with the Buckeyes that the ‘Lopes have come out on top.  But there were other bigger ‘firsts’ for the program that is in its fifth year of existence.  It was the first victory in an MIVA Tournament and the first win over a nationally-ranked opponent.

This team also set a new school record for wins in a season.  The 2013 squad, which enjoyed the depth that comes with having 11 players back from the previous season, posted a 16-14 regular-season mark to move up a notch from last year’s 15-17 finish.

Head coach Jeremy Price, who was selected as the MIVA Coach of the Year in 2012, called the 16-win season a “significant point in the program’s history” and attributed it to an increased focus on pre-season work.  “We started preparing for this back in September with our strength and conditioning program, practice drills, and playing matches,” said Price, who is in his third season at the controls.

“That got us to this point.  Now it’s win and advance – or lose and the season is done.”

The ‘Lopes hit the historic 16-win mark with a pair of victories over Lindenwood University on Senior Night a little over a week ago, and those wins enabled junior outside hitter Ben Ponnet to record yet another first for the program.  The 6’4″ import from Belgium became the first GCU volleyball player to be named the Division II Men’s National Player of the Week after he notched 23 kills in Thursday’s game and came back with 22 kills in the Saturday finale.

He is also the first player in program history to reach 1,000 career kills.  After Saturday’s win over Ohio State, he has 1,052 and looking to add more against Lewis.

The No. 5-seeded ‘Lopes will take on the Lewis Flyers, the No. 9 team in the country, at Lewis’ Neil Carey Arena with a start time of 7 p.m.

(Photo: GCU Athletics/ Darryl Webb)