When Hawaii defeated Penn State in the NCAA men’s volleyball championship play-in game on Tuesday, Ohio State’s Driss Guessous was struck by how well the Rainbow Warriors used emotion to rally for the victory.

The Buckeyes will play Hawaii tonight in a semifinal, and they are counting on the home crowd at St. John Arena to give them a big boost. But they also understand that emotions can cut both ways.

“A big factor in us playing them is our managing our emotions on our side of the net and counteracting their emotion,” Guessous said.

Ohio State (30-2) enters as the No. 1 seed and defending champion. Fourth-seeded Hawaii (27-5) is in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

The Buckeyes acknowledge the pressure on them, but they don’t seem consumed by it.

“When it comes down to it, guys are focused on the present and reaching our main goal this season,” senior Gabriel Domecus said. “Everything that happened last year is already in the books. We’re back at the first step of trying to get to the national championship, so we’re in the same place everybody else is.”

Ohio State coach Pete Hanson said his biggest concern about Hawaii is keeping in check its trio of outside attackers — Stijn van Tilburg, Kupono Fey and Brett Rosenmeier.

“Can we pressurize any one or all three of those guys enough to at least keep them under control?” Hanson said. “We hope we can. That will be kind of the straw that stirs the drink — if we get that done. Or do those guys really go off on us, and then it’ll be a long night?

Hawaii is eager for the challenge.

“We never got to play Ohio State last year when they won the national championship,” Fey said. “We haven’t played them this year. So we’re super excited. Playing on their home court makes it even that more special.”

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