The Ball State men’s volleyball team swept Saint Francis in three straight sets during its season home opener and the first match of the Shondell Active Ankle Challenge Jan. 12. 

The Cardinals are currently ranked No. 15 overall in the AVCA Division-I coaches poll with an overall record of 3-1. The Red Flash entered the match just outside of the top 15 poll, and with the loss hold a record of 2-2.

“It was really cool to come out in front of the home crowd for the first time this season,” freshman outside attacker Matt Szews said. “We played all of our preseason matches away, so it was nice to come home and get a win too.”

The Cardinals jumped out to an early lead and would carry that momentum throughout the match after taking the first set 25-21. The second set was closer as the Red Flash kept the score within 1-2 points throughout, but the Cardinals edged out a 25-22 victory.

Heading into the locker room, Ball State was ahead 2-0, leading by five kills. Ball State finished with 44 total kills compared to Saint Francis' 41.

The third set saw a 23-21 Ball State lead turn into an overtime affair, but the Cardinals took care of business, winning the final set 27-25 and the match 3-0, sweeping the Red Flash in double overtime. 

Szews finished the match with a team-high 16 kills on a .387 attack percentage for the night.

“Szews has really showed a great level of maturity and knows how to create the best of situations when they are not ideal,” head coach Joel Walton said. “The guys really enjoy those moments where we throw him a ball and he finds the right spot on the other team’s court to become a dominant offense force.”

This season, the six-foot-eight-inch freshman has dominated offensively for Ball State, and the Jan. 12 game was no different. Overall, the Cardinals find a lot of success on the offensive side of the court, allowing them to hold a lead for the majority of the match.

It's also a side of their game senior setter Connor Gross hopes they can continue moving forward.

“We served really well tonight and really kept our offense going,” Gross said. “We also want to work on our defense in blocking as we did struggle a bit from time to time, but we still want to maintain a strong offense and defense going into Penn State.”

The Cardinals will play their second game of the Shondell Active Ankle Challenge Jan. 13 against No. 14 Penn State. Walton said that game will be different as Penn State will bring a set of unfamiliar faces to Worthen Arena.

“Penn State has a lot of new guys this year,” Walton said. “We got to figure out who the personnel is and make sure our guys are in tune with what is going on this year.”