In a battle of nationally ranked top 10 teams, No. 9 -ranked Ball State reigned victorious over No. 10-ranked Lewis Tuesday night with a hard-earned 3-1 series. Lewis fought through the emotional close of the match, losing the first two games 20-30, 22-30, until they challenged the Cardinals in their final round.
The Cardinals came out of the gates smoking, hitting an incredible .640 and holding Lewis to .208 in the first game. Playing their conference rivals, Ball State poised themselves to destroy the Flyers without question. Unfortunately the Cardinals' numbers slipped each game when they could not maintain their offensive prowess.
"The biggest frustration of the match," coach Joel Walton said, " was that we started pressing toward the end of the match. We've been in these situations before. We need to learn to settle down."
The third game presented an interesting predicament with neither team taking control. Lewis, in danger of being swept, finally squeezed Ball State, winning 32-30 to stay alive. That win could have turned the tables, but Ball State refused to give Lewis the momentum advantage.
Game four started with exactly the same competitiveness with which game three ended. Neither team could score a point without the other returning the favor. However Ball State stole control and eventually defeated Lewis in another close game (30-27), the Flyer's first conference loss.
Walton said, "Our experience was a really important part of the game."
Several players stepped up big for Ball State. Kyle Weindel was an uncontrollable beast against Lewis with 21 kills, 20 in the first three. Keith Schunzel also made a case to be named to the All-MIVA first team with 64 assists, including 20 in game three. Schunzel alone out-assisted the entire Lewis team (61).
Ball State's win brings up doubts concerning MIVA preseason projections. Lewis was projected to finish top of the conference pack with Ball State right behind. The history between the two teams also seemed to give the advantage to Lewis, leading the series 11-9 before Tuesday.
Ball State proved that those projections may be flawed. Not only did Ball State hand Lewis its first conference loss, it also remains a step ahead of Lewis in national rankings.
Ball State takes to the road this weekend, continuing its conference season against IPFW Friday and Mercyhurst Saturday.