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Men’s Volleyball: No. 9 Ohio State heads west to face No. 3 Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara

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Ohio State senior libero Parker Mikesch (3) digs the ball during the Ohio State-St. Francis game Jan 12. Ohio State won 3-0 in sets. Credit: Gabe Haferman | Assistant Photo Editor

Ohio State men’s volleyball will head to California for its second weekend in a row.

After a loss-and-win weekend against UCLA and USC, respectively, the No. 9 Buckeyes (4-1) will now face Long Beach State (4-0) and UC Santa Barbara (2-3) in the Battle of the Bigs tournament.

Head coach Kevin Burch said he wants his team to continue to push defense and serving, especially against Long Beach State’s freshman outside hitter Alex Nikolov, who was named American Volleyball Coaches Association Offensive Player of the Week.

“We’ll continue to work on our weaknesses and get better in some areas, but we’ll also need to work on our strengths,” Burch said. “We want our defense to continue to be a strength of ours moving forward.”

On the season, Long Beach State averages about 12.8 kills per set, while Ohio State averages 11.3 and UC Santa Barbara 10.3.

The Beach enter Friday’s matchup fresh off of two consecutive ranked wins over No. 7 Lewis University and No. 11 Loyola Chicago. Despite seeing multiple ranked teams this season, Long Beach State has lost just one set — coming against the Flyers Jan. 21.

Nikolov and sophomore outside hitter Clarke Godbold lead Long Beach State to 166 total kills — the best mark in the Big West by a wide margin. Godbold leads the Beach with 48, and Nikolov has produced 47.

UC Santa Barbara hasn’t seen quite the same success as the Beach, as the Gauchos kicked off the season with back-to-back losses to USC. Despite the slow start, UC Santa Barbara has won two of its last three games — including a 3-2 victory over No. 5 Pepperdine last weekend.

Junior opposite hitter Haotian Xia is an impact player for the Gauchos, leading UC Santa Barbara with 66 kills.

Ohio State has not faced either team since the 2019-20 season when the Buckeyes fell 3-1 against both teams at the Covelli Center.

With another weekend in California against talented teams, Ohio State sophomore outside hitter Jacob Pasteur said the Buckeyes are ready for another challenge.

“We are looking forward to another challenging weekend,” Pasteur said. “We are ready to show our team’s true character.”

Ohio State’s matchup with Long Beach State is at 8 p.m. Friday and the UC Santa Barbara game is scheduled for Saturday at 10 p.m. Both games will air on ESPN+.

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