Nathan Pace

Saturday night, players were laughing and pulling pranks on each other as their team bus drove home from Saint Francis University.

Twenty-four hours earlier, the Ball State University men's volleyball team was stone silent when it drove away from Penn State University.

Ball State went from losing 3-0 to Penn State to defeating Saint Francis 3-1 (29-31, 30-27, 30-28, 30-21) Saturday in Loretto, Pa.

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.

"It's a huge relief for us," junior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic said. "We just came out with this fire. We wanted it so bad. We wanted to prove who we are."

Gasparovic had a career-high 20 kills to go along with his team-high five blocks.

Ball State coach Joel Walton said that Saint Francis (7-6) 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 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. This is quite the contrary to the match at Penn State, where Ball State didn't even have five aces as a team.

"We served a lot better tonight," Walton said. "We put 85% of our serves in play."

Libero Billy Ebel tied for match-high honors with 14 digs. Pheister was second on the team with 12 digs to go along with his 45 assists.

Outside attacker Jamion Hartley joined Gasparovic in double-digit kills with 11.

The non-conference win moves Ball State to 8-4 (2-3 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) with a pair of conference matches at home in the upcoming week.

The Cardinals play host to IPFW on Thursday before hosting Lewis University on Friday.

Gasparovic credited his teammates for his career night.

"Everyone really contributed to the match so overall it was a great team effort," he said. "Ethan was giving perfect sets to work with and I just tried to hit the best shot."