Senior setter Connor Gross and junior middle attacker Anthony Lebryk high five at the game against New Jersey Institute of Technology on Jan. 27 in John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals hit under .260 in their losses to McKendree and No. 2 Ohio State this week. Kaiti Sullivan // DN File
Offense struggles in 2 road losses for No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball
In No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball's losses to McKendree and No. 2 Ohio State, there was one common theme that stood out — a lack of offense.
"We've only sputtered to life rarely on offense lately," Ball State head coach Joel Walton said. "Consistently, we've hit low numbers and that's the main thing right now that we have to get corrected."
The Cardinals (15-8, 6-6 MIVA) finished with attack percentages of .256 and .159 in their losses to the Bearcats and the Buckeyes, respectively. These numbers were a far cry from what the Cardinals hit the first time they matched up with these two teams — .430 against McKendree and .314 against Ohio State at home in early February.
Weekend stat leaders:
Kills: Matt Walsh — 15
Assists: Connor Gross — 60
Digs: Connor Gross — 12
Service Aces: Matt Walsh — 3
Total Blocks: Connor Gross — 5
"We need to get our guys more comfortable and in rhythm again so we can step on the court and be a more competitive team on the weekends," Walton said. "The lack of offense is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on our team defensively."
The Cardinals were held without a total team block for the first time all season in their loss to the Buckeyes on Saturday. Ohio State's junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen and senior Miles Johnson out-killed the entire Ball State roster 24-23.
"We were back on our heels most of the match," Walton said.
The Cardinals led for a total of just five points in the entire match.
Senior setter Connor Gross finished with 18 assists against Ohio State, tying a season-low.
"The rhythm that's coming from our setter and the tempo of the sets that he's giving to our attackers is important," Walton said. "His ability to get a ball that's hittable and be aggressive when we're not passing well is also important."
Ball State experimented with a few different lineups throughout the weekend. The Cardinals started senior outside attacker Edgardo Cartagena and freshman libero Nick Lavanchy in both matches but started two different middle attackers with sophomore Parker Swartz starting against McKendree and junior Anthony Lebryk starting against Ohio State.
Lebryk finished with a match-high six kills against Ohio State and also added a service ace against McKendree.
"He's been playing really well this last half of the season and has been pushing his way for a starting spot in that second middle position," Walton said. "He's continued to be able to do some really good things when we've been able to work him into the match."
Ball State returns home next week to face Quincy and Lindenwood on Friday and Saturday. Both matches will start at 7:30 p.m.