Andrew Mishler

Tommy Rouse dove to the floor and extended his entire body to save a ball from hitting the ground. After getting to his feet and resetting his position, the ball came flying back toward him only a second later. Once again, the redshirt freshman launched himself horizontally and punched the ball into the air, eventually saving a point.

Rouse's play epitomized the effort that Ball State displayed in its season-opening 25-23, 27-25, 25-22 win over Lindenwood on Friday night in Worthen Arena.

"We knew Lindenwood was going to be a pretty good team," Senior Anders Nelson said. "I'm really pleased with a 3-0 win. We got a lot of guys in and a lot of guys played well, so I'm pretty happy with how we played."

Nelson along with sophomores Jamion Hartley and Larry Wrather led Ball State on the night, as Hartley and Wrather each had eight kills while Nelson had seven.

But it was the contributions from players like Rouse, who was playing in his first match of his collegiate career, which made the difference for Ball State.

"That's what we expect out of our libero," coach Joel Walton said. "He's got some big shoes to fill because Billy Ebel was an incredible defensive player for us, and then Ian Peckler before that, so there's a good lineage of ball control players. I'm pleased to see Tommy step into that role and play very aggressively."

Rouse led Ball State with 14 digs. Nelson said he was glad to finally see Rouse play in a competitive match.

"We're used to seeing that in practice," Nelson said. We've been seeing Tommy do that for two years, so it's good for him to play in front of some fans. And they're going to love him, because he's an awesome player."

Lindenwood seized control early in the first set with a 6-2 lead, but Ball State quickly came back to tie at 7-7. The two teams continued to battle into an eventual 23-23 tie until a block from sophomore Dan Wichmann and a kill by Nelson gave Ball State the game.

The Cardinals controlled most of the second set to go up 24-19. The Lions then took over, scoring five straight points to tie the game. But Ball State quickly recovered to escape with the 27-25 win.

Walton said he wasn't happy with how his team closed out the set.

"I'm disappointed in them because it shows a breakdown in our offense," Walton said. "It's ok to do it once, but after doing it two or three times in a row, now you've let a team back into a game that you really worked hard to open up a huge gap to put way. That is frustrating, and we'll certainly go and look at what happened in that rotation and why they were able to work their way back in."

Following the win, Ball State will play in its annual alumni game on Saturday night in Worthen arena. Walton had two words of advice for Ball State's opponent.

"Watch out."