Senior setter Connor Gross sets the ball up for sophomore middle attacker Parker Swartz during the game against Fort Wayne on Feb. 7 in Worthen Arena. The Cardinals won 3-0 against the Mastodons. Kyle Crawford // DN
No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball rides hot streak into MIVA semifinals
Sophomore outside attacker Parker Swartz says No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball is peaking at the right time.
With their 3-1 (17-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-23) win over No. 12 Loyola on Saturday, the Cardinals advance to their first MIVA semifinal match since 2014.
The Cardinals won their last two matches, both against the Ramblers, by a combined total score of 167-140.
Ball State in MIVA Semifinals:
2014: at Lewis — Loss, 3-2
2013: at Loyola — Loss, 3-1
2012: at Ohio State — Loss, 3-0
2010: at Ohio State — Loss, 3-1
2009: vs. Lewis — Win, 3-2
Swartz, who finished with a career-high eight kills in Saturday's win, brought a strong presence of positive energy to the match for the Cardinals.
"Whenever I get a good kill I feel like I freak out a bit," Swartz said. "I love being able to give energy to the other guys and I feel like it just gets them going even more."
The Cardinals struggled defensively in the beginning of the match as they lost the first set, and they weren't able to record their first block until the third set. But Ball State head coach Joel Walton said once they found their groove defensively, everything else began to fall into place.
"After set one, I feel like our intensity really started to pick up," Walton said. "We started to get our block set up in better places and create more opportunities for our back row to make more plays."
Senior setter Connor Gross, who finished with 39 assists, two kills and seven digs, said some strong defensive plays late in the match helped get the crowd into the game.
"That's what energizes the crowd," Gross said. "They love to see good plays on defense and it was crucial for us to get that energy."
One of those strong plays was a diving save by sophomore libero Adam Wessell that went on to set up a 6-0 serving run by Gross — the longest scoring run of the match.
Freshman outside attacker Blake Reardon, who finished with a team-high 11 kills, said he wasn't sure what the outcome of the match would've been without that serving run.
"He killed it, it 100 percent changed the game," Reardon said. "That got our heads where they needed to be and we might not have been able to win without that."
Ball State faces 1-seed Ohio State Wednesday — a team the Cardinals have lost to twice already this season.
"I'm loving the way that we're playing right now," Swartz said. "I feel like we're peaking right now and I think we can peak against Ohio State. We're ready for that challenge."