MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State sweeps Saint Francis with key MIVA matches in horizon
No. 13 Ohio State, No. 11 Loyola matches now await
The fans at Worthen Arena rose to their feet to cheer on No. 15 Ball State University at game point and middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic rose with them for a block, clinching game two.
Ball State swept Saint Francis University 3-0 (35-33, 33-31, 30-25), but the score might be misleading.
"We didn't come out right away," libero Billy Ebel said. "The way we came out in the first two games isn't how Ball State plays. Mentally and physically we were in the match but emotionally I think that was missing."
Games one and two went into overtime as Saint Francis had game point chances in the first two games.
"We gave away some leads tonight and I felt that like out play was lackluster," coach Joel Walton said. "Certainly, early in the match Saint Francis wanted to play more than we did."
It took four game point opportunities for Ball State to take game one and three chances to take game two. Every time Saint Francis had a game point Ball State responded.
"We made a couple of plays at the right moments," Walton said. "We just avoided that critical error."
Despite having a 7-5 advantage in aces, the Cardinals kept the Red Flashes in the match by committing 20 service errors compared to 11. Setter Ethan Phiester, however, scored his 100th career ace on the night.
"[Phiester] is one of the top ace hitters in our conference," Walton said. "We want him to be aggressive with his serve because he can serve a ball with a pace that teams struggle hitting consistently off of."
Outside attacker Eric Schulte led the Cardinals in kills at 12 with middle attacker Anders Nelson and outside attacker Lee Meyer one back with 11. Schulte thinks he is benefitting from teams focusing on Neslon and Gasparovic.
"It all starts with the pass," Schulte said. "Now that opponents are committing I feel that we can split up our offense a bit more."
Ebel had a match-high 10 digs. The Cardinals out dug the Red Flashes 44-34.
Outside hitter Jordan Varee, who led the Red Flashes in kills with 11, was mysteriously pulled off the court in game three.
"I just know he didn't play and I don't know why," Ebel said. "Maybe he was not putting up the numbers they wanted."
Ball State moves to 17-9 on the season (6-4 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) while Saint Francis falls below .500 to 12-13. Ball State closes out the regular season against MIVA leaders No. 13 Ohio State University and No. 11 Loyola University next weekend. Ball State is currently the No. 3 seed in the MIVA tournament, which begins April, 24.
"I would love to beat both Ohio State and Loyola," Walton said. "I want our guys to show they can put in that kind of performance late in our conference play. The danger is we don't want to show all our tricks. You want to play with well enough to win, but you want to make sure they can't use their previous match to game plan against you so that the conference tournament doesn't becomes more difficult."