Sophomore outside attacker Blake Reardon serves the ball to Lewis University during a match on Feb. 16 in John E. Worthen Arena. Madeline Grosh, DN
After early road struggles, Ball State turns corner with 4th straight win
Since falling to 5-7 with a couple of heartbreaking losses, the Cardinals have been flying high and racking up the victories.
Ball State men’s volleyball (9-7, 4-2 MIVA) turned another corner as the team defeated Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association foe Lindenwood (6-9, 1-6 MIVA) by a 3-2 (19-25, 29-27, 27-29, 25-22, 15-12) margin to win consecutive road matches for the first time all season.
The first set was not kind to the visitors.
Kills: Blake Reardon, Mitch Weiler (12)
Assists: Jake Romano (48)
Digs: Jake Romano (19)
Blocks: Matt Walsh (6)
Ball State was never able to gather much momentum in the first set. With the score knotted at six apiece, a service error by sophomore setter Jake Romano sparked a 5-2 Lindenwood scoring run to give them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. A Nathan Van Dellen kill would seal a 25-19 victory for the Lions in the opening set. The block of Lindenwood was giving Ball State trouble throughout the first game. The Lions picked up seven total blocks in the set to thwart a lot of opportunities for the Cardinals to generate offense.
The second set was a different story.
The Cardinals scrapped and clawed for every point against the Lions in a back-and-forth set that saw both teams go on scoring spurts. Ball State started out with a 3-1 lead thanks to a trio of errors from Lindenwood. The Lions bounced back with a 10-4 run to lead by four as the set reached its middle portion. The Cardinals responded with their own 4-1 run to pull within a point as the game reached a crucial stretch. With the score at 23-19 in favor of the Lions, it looked like they were on the way to another win. The Cardinals were having none of that. A gutsy 5-1 run by the visitors drew things even at 24 after kills by Parker Swartz, David Siebum and Mitch Weiler, a block by Ball State and a Lindenwood attack error. From there, the teams traded blows until a Blake Reardon kill sealed the deal for Ball State. The Cardinals won the second set by a score of 29-27.
“We had to fight hard to win the second set,” head coach Joel Walton said. “We weren’t doing ourselves any favors with our serves, but our backline defense was solid tonight.”
The third set was much of the same.
Both teams exchanged points throughout the game, with neither side taking more than a three-point lead. The Cardinals were in the lead for most of the way, eventually putting themselves in position to cap off a hard-fought game with another win in the third. However, a 3-0 scoring run by the Lions quickly flipped the script and gave them the momentum. Each side was trying to take back control of the set, but the back-and-forth style of the match kept things close as the third set reached overtime. A Mitch Weiler service error and a kill by Johnny Winkler gave Lindenwood the two points they needed to win the third set. The Lions took a 2-1 advantage in the match after a second straight set ended by a score of 29-27, this time in favor of the hosts.
Ball State had to dig deep to force a fifth set, and that’s what it did.
After leaping out to a quick 5-1 lead to start the set, Ball State had all the momentum. As it had done so many times in the match, the momentum switched sides when Lindenwood responded with its own 6-2 run to knot things up at seven. When the Cardinals went on a 10-5 run, it looked like they’d cruise to a victory in the fourth game, but that wasn’t the case. The Lions battled back and pulled within a point after a 9-5 scoring run cut the Cardinals’ lead down to 22-21. A Lindenwood service error and kills by Blake Reardon and Parker Swartz led the Ball State to a 25-22 victory in the fourth game, forcing the match into a deciding fifth set.
The Cardinals needed to win the fifth set to seal their first four-match winning streak of the season and win consecutive road matches for the first time all year. They got it done.
Close sets were commonplace in tonight’s match. The fifth was no different. Both squads exchanged shots in a battle for a crucial conference win. The score sat at five apiece when Ball State went on a 6-3 run to gain a slight lead at 11-8 down the stretch. From there, the Lions were kept at a safe distance as the Cardinals tried to soar out of their den with a win. Lindenwood didn’t go down without a fight, but a Parker Swartz kill would wrap up the match and give Ball State a 15-12 win in the final set.
Walton said that he has been pleased with Jake Romano's performance as a young player, but knows Romano still has a lot of room to improve as he becomes a more experienced player.
With several Ball State players dealing with some nagging injuries, Walton knows how crucial it is for other guys o step up.
"It's a team sport," Walton said. "If you think you're going to win matches with the same guys being the ones contributing, it's probably not going to happen."
Three different Cardinals finished the match with double digit kills. Sophomore outside attacker Blake Reardon and senior outside attacker Mitch Weiler led the way with a dozen each, while junior middle attacker Parker Swartz finished with 11 on a .562 hitting percentage, with the last being the game-winner. Jake Romano set the team up for success with season highs in both assists (48) and digs (19). Senior middle attacker Matt Walsh was the usual stalwart defender for Ball State, finishing with six total blocks. As a team, Ball State finished the night with a .224 hitting percentage and tallied 59 kills.
“We were ready to rip into the guys and then our bus driver was waiting there for us, and I heard he was hitting some dance moves in the stands, so it’s one of those situations where you never know where the motivation is going to come from,” Walton said.
For Lindenwood, Nathan Van Dellen led the match with 14 kills, while Michael Jennings wasn’t far behind with 13. Adam Brewster led both sides with 50 assists, while adding 15 digs. Ryan Vorderer had 20 digs to lead the match, and Sam Schindler paced both sides with seven total blocks.
Ball State will get a week off before taking a trip out west to face the University of California, San Diego on March 3. Opening serve of that match is scheduled for 7 p.m.