MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Cardinals able to laugh off losing streak following Saint Francis win
Ball State struggles vs. Penn State to open East Coast trip before coming back to beat Saint Francis
After having a career night, middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic was laughing and joking with teammates as their bus traveled home from Pennsylvania Saturday night.
This joyful scene was the polar opposite of what happened Friday night where the Ball State University men's volleyball players wanted to be left alone.
That's because Ball State went from losing 3-0 to Penn State University Friday to defeating Saint Francis University 3-1 (29-31, 30-27, 30-28, 30-21) Saturday night.
"It's a huge relief for us," Gasparovic said. "We just came out with this fire. We wanted it so bad. We wanted to prove who we are."
Gasporovic had a career-high 20 kills to go along with his team-high five blocks.
"Everyone really contributed to the match so overall it was a great team effort," Gasparovic said. "Ethan [Pheister] was giving perfect sets to work with and I just tried to hit the best shot."
Against the Nittany Lions Friday night, the Cardinals didn't have a player break double digits in kills. The loss to Penn State was one of the most lopsided defeats in school history as Ball State was outscored 90-55 on night.
"It's always better when you win," Ball State coach Joel Walton said. "Last night was really quiet, this night there is a lot of laughter. The energy on the court, the energy on the sidelines, the guys really did a nice job competing."
Walton said that Saint Francis played a defense that placed Ball State's middle attackers in a great position at the net. Gasparovic and fellow middle attacker Anders Nelson had the top two attack percentages on the night for the Cardinals.
"Our middles capitalized on those opportunities," Walton said. "With the defense that Saint Francis plays it's a one on one situation. Our middles are good enough to find the right shot."
Setter Ethan Pheister collected a team-high five aces on the night, quite the contrary to the match at Penn State where Ball State had two aces as a team.
"We served a lot better tonight," Walton said. "We put 85 percent of our serves in play."
Libero Billy Ebel tied for a game high 14 digs. Pheister was second on the team with 12 digs to go along with his 45 assists.
Against the Nittany Lions, the Cardinals only had 12 digs as a team.
The win over Saint Francis snaps a two-match losing streak for the Cardinals, who had lost three of their last four going into the match.
The non-conference win moved Ball State to 8-4 (2-3 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) with a pair of conference matches at home this week.
The Cardinals play host to IPFW on Thursday before hosting Lewis University on Friday.
"We realized we are all capable of playing better," Walton said. "Those matches are going to be important for our overall seeding.