The glow of last year’s national championship will never leave Pete Hanson.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever forget that feeling of seeing 8,000 people in here standing up and cheering as match point went down,” the Ohio State men’s volleyball coach said Tuesday at St. John Arena.

In May, the Buckeyes beat Brigham Young on their home court to repeat as national champions and capture their third title in this decade.

This week, past and future will converge for Ohio State. BYU returns to St. John on Saturday to play the Buckeyes after OSU faces another tough match, against Stanford, on Friday.

As big as this weekend appears, the Buckeyes are downplaying the significance, at least in terms of results. Ohio State lost key players from last year’s team to graduation and is early in the process of finding its way, and the same applies to BYU.

“They’ll definitely come for blood, which we expect,” junior Blake Leeson said. “But it’s two different teams.”

The middle blocker is one of the holdovers from last year’s team. The most decorated is senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen, the 2017 Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year.

“He is one of the few athletes — maybe the only athlete — I’ve ever had that when the spotlight gets brighter, he gets better,” said Hanson, who’s entering his 34th season. “You don’t see the true Nicolas Szerszen until you get to the most pressure-packed situations. That is the nicest security blanket you can have.”

Szerszen has embraced the leadership role this year.

“We have a lot of young guys this year,” he said. “Last year, I was kind of the young guy on the team. I’m trying to (share) the traditions for the young kids and set the example more than anything.”

Maxime Hervoir, like Szerszen a native of France, is looking to settle in as another outside hitter. Martin Lallemand, Jake Hanes and Reese Devilbiss are also battling for a spot.

Hanson has tabbed Sanil Thomas to succeed Christy Blough (now a volunteer assistant while he attends OSU's medical school) as the setter. Aaron Samarin takes over as the new libero. Fifth-year senior Nick Laffin has stepped in at middle blocker.

But there will be plenty of mixing and matching as the team finds its identity. In last week’s opener against North Greenville, Hanson experimented liberally throughout the easy victory.

As nice as it would be to win both matches this weekend, that’s not paramount to Hanson. He wants to see how the Buckeyes respond to adversity in the heat of the moment.

“The first month and a half, it’s going to be just figuring it out and playing different lineups and giving guys a chance to play and seeing how they respond to different situations,” Hanson said.

Ohio State is the third-straight team to win consecutive national titles, following Loyola of Chicago and UC Irvine. No team has won three titles in a row since UCLA in the early 1980s.

“They say that twice in a row is hard and three in a row is almost impossible,” Szerszen said. “I see it as a challenge. It’s always a goal, and it’s always been the goal.”

This weekend, the work toward that begins in earnest.