Buckeye Opener Recap

With the first event of the 2023-2024 season in the books, here is our recap of everything you need to know from the Buckeye Opener. Also, check out our latest episode of the Neutral Zone Podcast reviewing the tournament!

Neutral Zone Rewind Ep. 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEyUw5hQTZ0

Tournament Photos: Link 1, Link 2

Ohio State

OSU 3-2 UC (OT)

OSU 5-2 Ohio

OSU 4-0 Akron

OSU opened their season with an impressive 3-0 performance at the Buckeye Opener. After Opening the tournament with an overtime win over Cincinnati, OSU would go on to win both of their next matches convincingly over Ohio and Akron. While this roster is laden with veterans, a big part of the Buckeyes’ success was due to contributions from rookie standouts Colson Bunch and Chance Preece. Nick Kemer and Ethan Lehmkuhl also made significant contributions throughout the day. Ohio State is excited to make more noise at the next event they attend.


UC 2-3 OSU (OT)

UC 3-2 Akron

UC 4-3 Ohio (OT)

This was Cincinnati’s first tournament without many former veterans on the court. While there were moments where this showed, there were also plenty of moments where they looked to be in mid-season form. The Bearcats will surely iron some of those kinks out as the year rolls on and they develop more of their rookie talent. Fourth-year veteran Matthew Rosinski paced the Bearcats on both sides of the court, with 50+ regulation kills and a pair of catches to secure an OT win over Ohio.  


Ohio 2-5 OSU

Ohio 3-4 UC (OT)

Ohio 1-5 Kent

Many would agree that Ohio’s performance at the Buckeye Opener was nothing short of disappointing. The Bobcats lost a heart-breaker in overtime to UC. Then they were convincingly beaten by rival OSU, before ultimately being on the wrong end of what will probably be the biggest upset of the semester with a loss to Kent State. It is worth noting that Ohio was without their MVP front-runner Terence Checkett at this tournament. There is little doubt that they will come back much stronger at their next tournament, whenever that may be. I would also be remiss not to shout out rookie standouts Emmanuel ‘Eman’ Miller and Mary Holland, both of whom displayed their big arms on Sunday. 


Akron 3-2 BGSU

Akron 2-3 UC

Akron 0-4 OSU

Akron finished the day 1-2 with a win over Bowling Green and tough losses to Ohio State and Cincinnati. Some Zip standouts include Cooper Sites, who displayed great catching ability, and Arik Kavanagh, who was a difficult out all day. PJ Antalek and Alexis Schultz also both showed why they are All-American candidates. This team has shown plenty of resilience and promise despite how many key players they lost this off-season, taking UC down to the wire in a close 3-2 loss. While they still lack a big win, we will see if they can dial up some of their home court magic at Pink Out on October 21. 

Bowling Green State

BGSU 2-3 Akron



Bowling Green did what Bowling Green does. Win the games they should, lose the games they should. The Falcons can’t be too disappointed with a 2 win day on Sunday, but there is no doubt they were hungry for a 3-0 performance. Can they develop a strong enough roster to notch some big wins this season? Evan Brown and Kay Strawther think so, but most of the league will need to see it to believe it.

Kent State

Kent 7-0 CSU

Kent 7-0 NKU

Kent 5-1 Ohio

Kent State unexpectedly finished as one of the top stories of the day. Handily defeating both CSU and NKU, both games they were slight favorites in. But the real story came from their final game of the day: Out of nowhere blowing out Ohio by a score of 5-1. Key returners from last season such as Captain Nathan Keller, Andrew Radigan, Mike Bilczo, and Branden Stevens have shown massive improvements from their time in the NDA this past off-season, and their new rookie class is clearly filled with talent top to bottom. It remains to be seen whether or not this squad can consistently compete with the top teams of the league, but the future looks very bright for Kent State.

Cleveland State


CSU 0-7 Kent


To put it mildly, Cleveland State had themselves a rough day, losing all three of their games, and falling on the wrong side of NKU’s first-ever program win. But don’t write off this squad completely. CSU was only able to bring 10 players to this tournament where they were initially supposed to have a full 18-man roster. The players that were able to make it played hard all day, with Women’s All-Americans Kathryn Mays and Sky Thornsberry doing what they do best, and William McCartney proving himself to be a key court leadership presence. Look for this squad to improve heavily at their next tournament, as key missing players such as Antoine Lamar, Kyle Yates, and many of their new rookies will make a huge difference for this team.

Northern Kentucky


NKU 0-7 Kent


The Buckeye Opener was an impressive debut tournament for NKU, as the Norse kicked off their NCDA tenure with a win in their inaugural game against Cleveland State. While this team lacks the experience needed to compete with the established teams of the league, they never truly looked lost on the court. The veteran presence of former Ohio player Jacob Fleck clearly helps their team’s chemistry. Some solid performances from rookies TJ Gilkey and Sahil Bachwani also show lots of growth potential for the fresh faces of this team. Don’t expect this to be the only win NKU sees this year, as they’ll only get better throughout the season.

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