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Columbus, Ohio • BYU won't lack motivation Saturday when it faces Ohio State in a rematch of last year's NCAA men's volleyball championship match after the Buckeyes shellacked the Cougars 3-0 to capture last season's title.
Defending national champion and top-seeded Ohio State will have some, too.
"We are all pretty excited," OSU middle blocker Matt Dorn said. "We want to show them that there was a reason why we won last year, and just show them that we are still a good team."
Added fellow middle blocker Blake Meeson: "Personally, I was hoping to play them again."
First serve between heavily favored Ohio State (31-2) and No. 3 seed BYU (26-4) is at 5 p.m. MDT, and the match will be televised by ESPN2. Both clubs swept their semifinal opponents, Hawaii and Long Beach State, to get to the finals for the second straight year.
BYU coach Shawn Olmstead and his players expressed disbelief when told during Friday's news conference that the Buckeyes felt disrespected last year.
"I don't know where that would ever come from," Olmstead said. "I have praised every opponent up and down, over and over. I am excessive, to be honest. If they felt that way, yeah, that's a bummer. I don't think our guys carry themselves that way. We have no reason to."
Asked to elaborate, OSU's Dorn, a senior from San Diego, said, "It seemed like last year when we beat them they didn't, like, respect us enough when we were preparing for the game, and stuff like that."
Whatever the case, this year's Cougars have all the respect in the world for what OSU has done the past two seasons.
"And I think they are even better this year than last year. Everyone is back," said BYU senior middle blocker Joe Grosh, who acknowledged spending a lot of time reliving the 32-30, 25-23 and 25-17 losses, set by set, the past year.
"Obviously it was kind of a shock losing last year. We came in and we were expecting to put up a good fight and play to win, but we just came out, and it just didn't go our way," Grosh said.
The Cougars lost at Penn State's Rec Hall because they couldn't handle OSU's powerful service game. That same dominance was on display Thursday when star outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen plastered Hawaii with five of OSU's six aces.
"We were assuming that we were going to play them, and we know how tough of a serve they have," said BYU senior Kiril Meretev, who noted that the Cougars have been working extra hard on their serve-receive and passing the last year knowing they probably would face Szerszen and his friends again.
Ohio State coach Pete Hanson perhaps provided some insight where this perceived disrespect comes from when he was asked if OSU's national titles last year and in 2011 and Loyola Chicago's titles in 2014 and 2015 "obliterated" the long-held notion that West Coast volleyball is superior to that played in the East and Midwest.
"There is no doubt, if you look back at the history books, that the West Coast was dominant for so many years," Hanson said. "You can't dispute the numbers. But there are also times that a team outside of that area will achieve something, and they are not given their due. They are not given their proper credit because we put in as much time as the next team and work as hard as the next team. … If we have to recognize theirs, then we would expect that the recognition would be the same from the other direction. And in some areas it wasn't, and I think that was sometimes a little bit frustrating."
The Cougars not only will be fighting that chip that apparently still lingers on OSU's sizable shoulders, but a massive pro-Buckeyes crowd as well.
Some 4,834 fans attended Thursday's semifinals, and all but 200 or so were decked out in scarlet and gray.
"It should be awesome" playing at home, Dorn said. "We were very surprised at how many people showed up for the semifinal game [Thursday], and it was just an awesome experience."
Added Hanson: "If Buckeye Nation shows up, it is going to help the guys in scarlet and gray. We are counting on that a little bit, too."
Olmstead, who also coached BYU's women in the 2014 NCAA championship match, a 3-0 loss to Penn State, said the Cougars are comfortable playing in front of 5,000 fans, having done it countless times at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo.
"But obviously playing on their home court is going to be a tough match," he said. "This is going to be an away match for us where maybe for the first time we don't have more BYU fans. … But it is a great venue, a great atmosphere for the sport, for men's volleyball, so that's exciting."
BYU vs. Ohio State
P NCAA men's volleyball national championship match
Where • St. John Arena, Columbus, Ohio
When • 5 p.m. MDT Saturday
Records • No. 3 BYU (26-4) vs. No. 1 Ohio State (31-2)
TV • ESPN2