Cardinals 12-match winning streak longest since 1966
The Daily News
No. 15 Ball State’s win over No. 11 Loyola on Saturday — the team’s 20th on the season — transcended the win-loss column.
Ball State’s win over Loyola brings the regular season to a close, and locks the Cardinals in for the No. 3 seed for the Midwestern Intercollegiate tournament, giving the home court advantage for the quarterfinals against IPFW.
Going into postseason play, Ball State could not be hotter. The Cardinals are riding a 12 match-winning streak, their longest since 1966, and that has left the team oozing confidence.
“When we’re settled in and playing our game, we’ve been playing so well,” senior outside attacker Greg Herceg said. “There’s nobody that can beat us.”
The last loss Ball State suffered was against Loyola on Feb. 23, which put the Cardinals on a five-game skid. After the match Ball State had two weeks off, but that was not a time of relaxation.
In an effort for more offensive potency, coach John Walton moved Herceg, who was third in the nation in kills per set at the time, to the right-side, and inserted senior Jamion Hartley into the lineup.
“The switch was a little bit weird at first, but we’ve lost what, like four sets since we made it,” Herceg said.
Only dropping four sets in the last 12 matches, the Cardinals have been nearly as dominating statistically. The Cardinals’ hitting percentage since the change is the best in the MIVA.
Though the change was for more offense, the Cardinals are still anchored by their defense. This season the Cardinals are the best in the MIVA in opponent hitting percentage, second in blocks and digs per set, and have touted four MIVA Defensive Players of the Week.
During the winning streak the Ball State has beaten four nationally ranked opponents in then-No. 10 Penn State, then-No. 8 Ohio State, No. 9 Lewis and No. 11 Loyola. The victories have earned Ball State a spot in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s poll for the first time in two years.
The win against Loyola gives Ball State a win against every team in the MIVA, and Walton thinks that the hot-streak has alerted teams in the MIVA.
“We’re a team that nobody wants to play right now,” Walton said.
Ball State has seemingly eschewed any chance of being a dark horse, and that is more than OK with junior setter Graham McIlvaine.
“This is a shout out to the nation that we are one of the best teams in conference, if not one of the best teams in the Midwest, East Coast and even the West Coast,” McIlvaine said after defeating No. 9 Lewis. “I think we proved we’re the team to beat by beating the No. 1 seed.”
That win temporally denied Lewis the top seed in the MIVA tournament, and permanently eliminated a chance for the Flyers to control their own destiny. Then two days later gave the Flyers the title, by defeating Loyola.
Despite how impressive this streak is, and all the eye-popping statistics, Ball State is still considered by the seedings the third best team in the MIVA. The 12-match winning streak, isn’t what Ball State is concerned with.
“It’s not going to get any easier,” Walton said. “Teams have now seen us, and are putting together tactics to take advantage of what we’re doing.
“Nobody is going to hand anything to us.”
The goals are still bigger, winning the MIVA tournament and going the Final Four.
“I need a ring,” Hartley simply said. “We want to go to L.A.”