MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Buckin' A! Ball State falls to Ohio State in MIVA Tourney for 4th straight year
No. 13 Cardinals' season over in conference semifinals
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Ohio State University's attack attempt tipped off one of his players and landed out-of-bounds for the match-winning point, coach Joel Walton threw his binder about five feet underneath the team's bench.
The frustration for the 12th-year Ball State University head coach was almost overwhelming.
For the fourth straight season, Ohio State eliminated Ball State in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament.
The No. 13 Cardinals lost to the No. 10 Buckeyes 3-1 (30-24, 27-30, 30-28, 30-27) in the conference tournament semifinals Wednesday night.
"We played well. We just came up a couple points short and that's frustrating," Walton said.
The defending-MIVA champion Buckeyes entered on a seven-match winning streak against the Cardinals. That streak also included sweeping Ball State the last two years in the conference championship match.
Middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic said having a season-ending loss to Ohio State once again was unbearable.
"It's incredibly frustrating," he said. "It's raging, irritating, it's just maddening in general, but we came here knowing what we needed to do and for the most part we did all that stuff very well."
Despite having swept Ball State in its two regular season matches, Ohio State coach Pete Hanson said he was not surprised the match went four games.
"It was a good match, " he said. "Those Ball State kids competed their rear ends off and that's a credit to them."
Gasparovic, a First-Team All-MIVA selection, had a match-high 10 blocks as Ball State out-blocked Ohio State 18.5 to 12 in the loss.
Hanson said his team was able to overcome the Cardinals' blocking with the performance of its outside attackers.
Outside attacker Shawn Sangrey had a match-high 27 kills. This was the third match against Ball State this season that Sangrey lead Ohio State in kills.
Outside attacker John Klanac also had 14 kills.
"Those are the guys that take big swings at big times. Sangrey has been really, really good for us the last two months," Hanson said.
Outside attacker Matt Sprague finished the match with 14 kills. The senior was also the only Ball State player to have double-digit kills as Ball State was out-hit .247 to .179 and held to less than a .100 attack percentage in two of the four games.
Sprague, who battled ankle injuries throughout this season, was a match-time decision to start the match in place of freshman outside attacker Larry Wrather.
"Sprague is just a guy I love to death," Walton said. "That kid is not the biggest player, but he just puts up numbers."
Along with Sprague, this was the final match of the three other senior starters — setter Ethan Pheister, libero Billy Ebel and outside attacker Eric Schulte.
Both Walton and Gasparovic said it will be difficult to replace what those four players brought to the team both on and off the court.
"Each one of them have meant so much. They are so valuable to this team," Gasparovic said. "Each one of them have helped me become the player I am today in both some and big ways, they have helped me become the person I am today."
With the loss, Ball State has now gone without a MIVA championship since 2002 — its longest drought in the program's 46-year history.
Walton said these last eight years have been difficult to compete for titles because of the team's limited budget. The coach said, though, he thinks his team can return to championship level next season.
"What our boys need to take out of this season is what they have to do during the summer time and what we have to do during the fall preparations to raise our level of play," he said. "We are obviously not there."