MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State ends regular season with victory
Seniors honored following the match
No team wants to lose on Senior Night. Ball State came through with that desire Saturday.
A night after upsetting Penn State, Ball State concluded the Don Shondell/Active Ankle Challenge with a 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20) win over St. Francis Saturday at Worthen Arena.
The victory came on Senior Night, which commemorated Lee Meyer, Dominic Spadavecchio, Anders Nelson, Marcus Imwalle and J.D. Gasparovic for their commitment to the men's volleyball team.
"All five guys have done an awful lot for our program and played very significant roles for their careers," coach Joel Walton said. "We're going to miss these guys a ton, and I'm not even sure our underclassmen understand yet how big the shoes are that they have to fill next year just from a leadership standpoint."
Ball State ends the regular season with a 19-10 record and a 7-5 conference record in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.
Nelson fittingly led the Cardinals with 17 kills and six blocks in his final regular season match with Ball State.
Imwalle, normally an outside attacker, started at libero for the third consecutive match. He said his transition from outside attacker could benefit Ball State in the postseason.
"It's been fun. One of my bigger strengths from the game was passing and digging," Imwalle said. "With a lot of the MIVA teams not seeing me play libero I think its a huge advantage that we have. It's a completely different lineup that not a lot of teams have seen. They're not going to know what to expect."
Freshman middle attacker Kevin Owens entered the match in the fourth game to a roaring round of applause , but was quickly pulled as St. Francis closed in on Ball State's lead.
Walton said his goal was to keep the seniors on the court for as long as possible rather than give the young players more playing time.
"Tonight was really more about our seniors and trying to get those guys as much time as I could, and yet remain in a rhythm with our group," he said.
Ball State ends the season on a three match winning streak, most notably with a shocking upset win over No. 9 Penn State on Friday.
With so many MIVA teams now struggling, recent success could prove to be the Cardinals' biggest advantage in the upcoming conference tournament.
"It's a huge momentum booster for everybody," Imwalle said. "Beating Penn State, we haven't done that since 2006. I think it scares everybody else."
With the regular season completed, the Cardinals will turn their attention to the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament next weekend. Their first match will be in the quarterfinals against Quincy on Saturday at 7:30 in Worthen Arena.