Vinnie Lopes

Playing against Quincy University has become a preferable match for outside attacker Matt Sprague.

For the second time in less than a year, Sprague had a career high in kills in the No. 13 Ball State University men's volleyball team's win against the conference opponent.

Sprague had a match-high 17 kills as the Cardinals defeated the Hawks 30-20, 30-20, 35-37, 30-19 on Thursday in Quincy, Ill.

"I don't know what it is," Sprague said. "I just try to get a kill and swing hard at the ball."

The 17 kills surpassed the junior's previous career high of 13 kills, which was set in Ball State's home sweep against Quincy last season.

Coach Joel Walton said Sprague had a good night passing the ball. The coach also said Sprague was successful offensively because of his vision on the court.

"There are certain matches where Matt is able to take advantage of teams that don't block well," Walton said. "He is always able to hit the ball in some ideal spots to avoid the blockers."

Entering Ball State's starting lineup about one month ago, Sprague is fourth on the team averaging 2.54 kills per game. In the last four matches, he has at least eight kills.

Sprague said in recent matches he has started to feel more comfortable on the court. The increase in playtime has also resulted in setter Ethan Pheister making better sets to him, the outside attacker said.

"Ethan is getting more comfortable setting me," Sprague said. "He now knows I can put [the ball] right into off the block."

Ball State (8-4, 4-0 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) had four players finish the match with at least 10 kills as it had a season-high .415 attack percentage.

Middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic had 10 kills and a season-high .833 attack percentage. The attack percentage would have set the program record for best attack percentage in a single-match, but Gasparovic had 12 attack attempts - three fewer than the minimum amount needed to be eligible.

Walton said he thought his team played better than he expected against Quincy (8-16, 0-3 MIVA). The coach also said despite their record, the Hawks played well in the match.

"We talked about the ability Quincy has to play at a high level," Walton said. "You can't come in expecting them to fall apart. They got on a role in game three. The fact they won that third game wasn't a fluke."

With the win, Ball State extended its winning streak to seven matches. It also remains in first place in the conference and has a half-match lead against second place No. 13 Ohio State University.

This was the first of six road matches the Cardinals will play in the next 10 days. Ball State will travel to Arizona for a two-match series against Grand Canyon University on Saturday and Sunday before playing conference road matches against Ohio State, No. 8 Lewis University and Loyola University next week.

Walton said the win against Quincy was a good start to the road trip. He also said he will feel more confident in his team's chances of winning the MIVA regular season title after next week.

"We get a couple of the key road wins we need to get," he said.