“Friends and family.”
That’s who Ohio State men’s volleyball head coach Pete Hanson said the Buckeyes usually play in front of.
On Saturday night in St. John Arena, however, there were 8,205 tempest-throated kith and kin in attendance and they did not want to be ignored.
Not when the national title was on the line.
Trailing BYU 8-7 in the first set, the Buckeye fans in attendance began to make themselves known. A “Let’s Go Bucks” chant went up and you could just feel the crowd pulling the team along. Imploring them to get going.
And it worked.
The Buckeyes went on an 8-1 run and — to be honest — never looked back.
The impact did not go unnoticed.
“You can’t quantify that,” Hanson said of that moment after the game. “That was absolutely unbelievable.”
“We’ve had fairly decent crowds – what we think are fairly decent crowds – are a thousand people, and most of them are friends and family, and they’ve helped us through some rough spots. 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. Yeah, Buckeye Nation helped us out a lot. They really did. We take our collective hats off to those folks.”
Through excellent timeout usage and a crowd that never backed down, the Buckeyes were able to avoid the bad spells that ultimately doomed BYU.
Yet as much as Hanson was appreciative of what the crowd did for the game, he was just as appreciative of what they did for his team.
“Buckeye Nation was off the charts tonight,” he said. “Eight-thousand people to watch these guys play volleyball has never happened in this community before. The support that our administration gives us, and the support of the Columbus Sports Commission to have this tournament and to get the word out, and to get people to get here, it’s just so nice to see that. Because these student athletes on both sides deserve that kind of support because they put in as many hours as anybody else. They work as hard as any other team in any other sport. I’m just so happy that they had a chance to experience this type of environment. They thrived in it and they used it to their advantage.”
And even though the crowd made life difficult for BYU, Cougars head coach Shawn Olmstead loved the atmosphere as well.
“Awesome,” he said of the crowd. “That’s great. That’s great for men’s volleyball. It’s great. I love it. We’d rather play – even if we’re on the road and visitors – we’d rather play in a packed arena. Pack the thing and make it an exciting venue and an exciting championship. I think that’s good for volleyball, and they did a great job.”
For most of the Buckeyes on this team, winning a national title is not new. What was new, however, was doing it at home in front of the kind of support that was befitting the product and the work that goes on when nobody is watching.
Along with the trophies, the atmosphere will be something that these players won’t soon forget.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” said Miles Johnson. “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.”
Even though this was a larger crowd than what the Buckeyes are accustomed to, there was still that old sense of familiarity.
Because just like every other game, Ohio State was once again playing in front of friends and family.
It’s just that this time there were about 8,000 of ’em.