MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State powers past conference rival Lewis
Cardinals now own conference tournament tiebreaker over Flyers
Ball State needed to play one of its best games of the season on Friday, and that's exactly what it got.
Ball State defeated 12th ranked Lewis 3-1 ( 25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-21) in a hard-fought Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association match at Worthen Arena.
A consistent attack percentage and quality defense, particularly by Tommy Rouse with 14 digs, led to Ball State's second win this season over a ranked opponent.
"It was a good team effort," coach Joel Walton said. "When you look at what we did offensively, we hit .342. We need to hit better than .300 against good teams, and that's a good starting point."
Ball State took an early hold on the match, controlling Lewis defensively by holding them to a .083 attack percentage.
But the Cardinals' momentum quickly fell off in the second game.
The Flyers ramped up their attacking in the second game on the back of outside attacker Jay Petty, who finished with 15 kills. They staved off a late Cardinals comeback to take the second game and tie the match at 1-1.
Ball State finally found some consistency in the final three games in the form of outside attackers Marcus Imwalle and Larry Wrather. Wrather finished with 15 kills, including six in the third period.
"When you get out there, you just have that feeling that you're ready to go," Wrather said. "Having your team behind you is always nice. Adrenaline, energy – it all comes into one big bundle.
Imwalle, who did not start, led a series of points near the end of the match with four service aces, bringing the crowd to its feet with cheers.
"We just calmed down," Wrather said. "We got really tight and tense in that second game, and once we calmed ourselves down, we were able to receive a lot better."
Walton said he wasn't surprised by Imwalle's strong play off the bench.
"We've seen Marcus destroy people in practice," he said. "We've seen Marcus, when he's been healthy, play great matches in previous seasons. The thing has been getting him to understand that he can't just be a gunslinger out there. I thought he chose some moments tonight to place the ball well."
Ball State earned the tiebreaker in the MIVA Tournament over Lewis with the win. The victory gives the Cardinals a better chance at capturing the third seed in the conference tournament next month.
However, nothing will simply be handed to Ball State. Walton said he made sure his players knew that.
"I told them afterwards, ‘Great job, we now control our destiny,'" he said. "It doesn't mean that we're locked into that third spot."
Nevertheless, Ball State improved its record to 13-8 overall and 4-4 in the MIVA with the win. Lewis fell to 15-8 and 3-4 in the MIVA.
Even with a big victory to open the weekend, the Cardinals still have two matches ahead of them today and Sunday.
Ball State will play King College today and Lees-McRae Sunday. Both teams hail from the Conference Carolinas.
Before those matches begin, Walton said he and the team will spend some time enjoying their victory over Lewis.
"That eight-hour trip down to Bristol, Tenn. tomorrow is going to be just a little bit better because we played well tonight and won a match."