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Columbus, Ohio • The Ohio State Buckeyes turned to perhaps the most well-known figure on campus, football coach Urban Meyer, while preparing earlier this week to defend their national men's volleyball championship at their home court historic St. John Arena.
The former University of Utah coach apparently told the OSU team Tuesday that when in rare air, they need to bond together, close the circle and avoid outside distractions as much as possible. It is one reason the players are staying in a hotel this week instead of their dorm rooms and apartments.
"He told us winning two national championships in a row is ridiculous," junior outside hitter Maxime Hervoir said. "So we have to be ridiculous right now."
When BYU coach Shawn Olmstead was asked Friday if he was going to bring in a high-powered speaker to motivate the Cougars, he had a quick answer.
"Yeah, Cosmo," he joked, referring to BYU's mascot.
After praising Meyer and OSU's "great history in every sport," Olmstead said he recently talked to two former Olympic gold medalists in volleyball who played for BYU, Ryan Millar and Rich Lambourne, and planned to pass along their words of encouragement to his players.
Saturday's 5 p.m. MDT match will mark the seventh time BYU has played in an NCAA men's volleyball championship match in the last 19 years. The Cougars have gone 3-3 in title matches. They beat Long Beach State 3-0 in 1999, UCLA 3-0 in 2001 and LBSU 3-2 in 2004.
The Cougars lost to Lewis 3-2 in 2003, UC Irvine 3-0 in 2013 and 3-0 to Ohio State last year.
"They are playing at a high level," OSU coach Pete Hanson said about BYU. "It is a very good volleyball team. It is going to be no easy task for our young men, but the thing that is really neat about these guys that put on the scarlet and gray uniforms is they don't get unnerved by that. They don't worry about the opponent."
No disrespect intended
After being told that Ohio State players didn't feel like BYU gave them the proper credit last year for knocking off the Cougars, who were slightly favored at Penn State's Rec Hall, Olmstead, BYU's coach, scratched his head in bewilderment then offered a belated apology.
"If they felt that, then, you know, that could have been a little extra motivation for them," he said. "Maybe they needed it. And it worked for them. They won last year. And to the victor go the spoils, so congrats. I stuck around and shook all their hands last year and told them congrats, enjoy it. It is an awesome accomplishment.
"I don't know where that would ever come from because I don't think [we disrespected them]. I don't think our guys walk around like that."
Patch rides the pine
Longtime BYU volleyball observers have been puzzled recently about why two-time all-American opposite hitter Ben Patch is not playing more. Patch didn't play at all in Thursday's semifinals as junior Tim Dobbert went the whole way at opposite.
"The plan going in was, 'Here is our group, let's go play the match,'" Olmstead said. "And in any match, you decide and make personnel decisions. … We did not go in thinking we would make a change. It went well, so there was nothing [to change]. I liked the way the entire team was playing throughout the match."
Patch played the entire game and registered 10 kills, but hit at a .091 clip in last year's championship match loss to OSU.