Ball State's setter Connor Gross, middle attacker Matt Walsh and outside attacker Brendan Surane attempt to block the ball during the game against Saint Francis Jan. on 12 in Worthen Arena. The Cardinals moved up to no. 13 in the NCAA AVCA Division I-II Coaches Poll after the team's wins against St. Francis and Penn State. Terence K. Lightning Jr. // DN File
Ball State men's volleyball moves to No. 13 in NCAA rankings following 2-win weekend
Ball State men's volleyball moved up to No. 13 in the latest NCAA AVCA Division I-II Coaches Poll after defeating Saint Francis and No. 15 Penn State this past weekend.
The Cardinals, who had been ranked No. 15 the previous two weeks, started off with a 3-0 win over Saint Francis (25-21, 25-22, 27-25) Jan. 12 and a 3-1 win over then No. 13 ranked Penn State (25-19, 20-25, 25-17, 25-18) Jan. 13.
Head coach Joel Walton said the team was balanced offensively during the two matches, with two players with 25+ kills and four with 10 or more kills.
Shondell-Active Ankle Challenge Stat Leaders:
Kills: Matt Szews - 30
Assists: Connor Gross - 82
Digs: Connor Gross - 23
Blocks: Matt Walsh - 7
“That balance in our offense is something we like to see,” Walton said. “We want to be able to get people hits from a lot of different places and force [our opponents] to have to spread out their defense.”
Freshman outside attacker Matt Szews led the Cardinals with 30 kills, 16 against St. Francis and 14 against Penn State.
“I think if I can continue being aggressive and keep my intensity while swinging, it’ll be pretty easy to continue to play at a high level,” Szews said.
Defense also helped out, as the Cardinals finished with 15.5 blocks over the two matches, including 11.5 blocks against Penn State.
“Our coaches are really good at teaching blocking and defense and that’s where we get our game and energy from,” junior middle attacker Matt Walsh said. “Our offense is there too, but without defense we wouldn’t be able to win.”
The Cardinals finished 12-3 at home last season and are already off to a 2-0 start at Worthen Arena early in the 2017 season.
Senior setter Connor Gross led the team with 82 assists and 23 digs in the two matches. He said playing in front of a supportive home crowd makes leading the team a little easier.
“As a senior, it’s kind of my first year running this team, so it’s been awesome to play in this environment all around,” Gross said. “I really love playing in this arena.”
The Cardinals will be looking to move up even higher in the rankings after this weekend’s matches at Harvard University Jan. 20 and at Sacred Heart University Jan. 21.