No. 15 Ball State’s 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 27-25, 25-19) win over No. 11 Loyola was more than just Ball State’s 20th win and ninth conference victory. The win transcended above the win-loss column, and ended Ball State’s regular season on a high note.

The signature win came on Senior Night, where Jamion Hartley, Greg Herceg, Tommy Rouse and Dan Wichmann were honored for their careers. The framed jerseys the players received commemorated their entire four years, but the integral part each senior has played on this year’s team was exemplified on the night.

“Talk about a memory, they have put so much work into this program, but this isn’t the end for them,” coach Joel Walton said.

The experience-laden Cardinals have rolled through a majority of their wins during their 12-match winning streak, the longest since 1966, but this one called out their reserve.

Hartley only logged three kills in the first two sets, but exploded for 13 in the last two.

“Graham [McIlvaine] wasn’t setting me as much, so I got cold, and that’s one of the things we addressed in between sets,” Hartley said. “I came out in the last to sets kid of mad ‘with a whatever mentality.’ ”

McIlvaine tied a career high in kills with six, but as a setter that isn’t always a good thing. The 6’6 junior setter resembles a running quarterback, he brings a lot more to the table that just setting, with his eight digs and two assisted blocks, but when Ball State is at their best he is setting, and sneaking in one or two kills.
Herceg struggled at times, making mental errors, even spurring Walton to yell “Come on Greg, you’re better than that.” Eventually Herceg was pulled out for a stint, but was the loudest on the Ball State bench. Showing the unselfishness that he displayed moving positions halfway through the season to allow Hartley to enter the starting lineup.

“Greg giving up his spot that he earned says a lot about him,” Walton said. “For Greg to make that a positive, when it could have hurt the team… You can’t say enough.”

This kind of win shows that Ball State can compete with top-flight teams even when it is not on it’s A-game. But when they do get in system, the Cardinals look like the Final Four is a real possibility.

“When we settle in and play our game nobody can beat us,” Herceg said.

But even after this winning-streak, defeating every team in the MIVA, the Cardinals still go into the tournament the third seed, and have not really won anything yet, and that keeps the time motivated.

“We are not going to stop,” Hartley said. “I really need a ring.”