The 2015 NCAA men’s volleyball championship was the first time two teams from the same conference, other than the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, played in the championship
Men's volleyball swept in MIVA quarterfinals
The No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball team left an opening. And McKendree took advantage of it.
The Cardinals (20-9, 12-4 MIVA), who finished the regular season with a 20-9 record, were at the top of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association standings for the majority of the season. They fell to the No. 3 seed in the tournament, and suffered an upset loss to the No. 6 seed McKendree Bearcats in the quarterfinals.
Ball State was missing two key players to injury. Head coach Joel Walton said the first-round loss was "a bitter pill."
“We didn’t fight, we didn’t dig down and find some way to get things done," he said. "So we opened up a door and they were good enough tonight to walk through that."
Ball State swept McKendree in the first two meetings between the teams this season. The Cardinals won 3-2 on the road on Feb. 4 and 3-1 at Worthen Arena on March 26.
The Bearcats got their revenge in the postseason, defeating the Cardinals 25-18, 25-23, 25-23 in a close match on Ball State's home floor.
In this match, however, there were personnel differences that affected the match.
The Cardinals were without junior outside attacker Brendan Surane, who led the team with 253 kills this season, and senior outside attacker Jack Lesure. Both players were sidelined with injuries against Lewis on April 8.
In the first two meetings against Ball State, McKendree was missing junior opposite Maalik Walker. He led the Bearcats with 3.13 kills per set this season, and led the team with 13 kills in the win over the Cardinals.
Walton said it was like playing "a team we hadn't seen."
“They were, in a more critical moment, more healthy than we were,” he said.
In the first set, McKendree held Ball State to a negative hitting percentage. Surane's absence became more glaring as the match went on.
“We’ve lived the last month and half feeding a lot of balls to Brendan Surane, and he’s opened up opportunities for other people as well,” Walton said. “Without that, we didn’t find any offensive punch out of anybody.”
With only three seniors, Ball State will return several players from this year's team. The Cardinals will look to build on the success they had this year and turn it into postseason success next season.