A fifth game once again hurt the No. 14 Ball State University men's volleyball team.
Ball State lost to No. 10 Lewis University 30-23, 26-30, 28-30, 30-25, 19-17 on Friday in Romeoville, Ill.
This is the second time in the last three days the Cardinals (10-6, 4-2 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) lost a conference match in five sets. Ball State lost to No. 15 Ohio State in five games Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio.
"We came up a few plays short," coach Joel Walton said. "We had chances to win the match."
Walton said part of the reason for the loss was because of Ball State's schedule.
This was the Cardinals' third conference road match in the last eight days. The team is on the fifth match of six-match road trip that has included playing in Arizona, Illinois and Ohio.
"I laid down the gauntlet for them," Walton said. "You hope your team is talented and determined enough to overcome some really bad scheduling on my part."
Ball State survived four match points before losing to Lewis in overtime in the fifth game. In addition, the Cardinals had a match point with the score 15-14 but outside attacker Drew Pickering's kill tied the game.
Pickering had a match-high 27 kills, including three kills in overtime of the fifth game.
Walton said Ball State struggled to stop the MIVA leader in kills per game average. The coach also said the Pickering consistently had big kills for his team late in each game.
"He carried them offensive," Walton said.
Ball State finished the match with a .211 attack percentage, its lowest since the team's season-opening loss to then-No. 4 Stanford University. This was also the first time the Cardinals were out-hit in 11 matches.
The Cardinals were kept to low offensive numbers because of the Flyers' defense, Walton said. He also said setter Ethan Pheister and right outside attackers Marcus Imwalle and Eric Schulte struggled to be productive.
Both right outside attackers combined for 10 kills and had a zero attack percentage on 34 attempts.
"We need to spend time with Ethan and them, and just get them back on the same page," Walton said.
Three Ball State players finished the match with at least 10 kills. Outside attacker Matt Sprague led the team with a career-high 18 kills.
With this loss Ball State drops to third place in the MIVA. The Cardinals trail first-place Ohio State (8-8, 5-1 MIVA) by one match and second-place Lewis by half a match.
Ball State's next match will be against Loyola University at 8 p.m. Saturday in Chicago.
Walton said Ball State must win its last four MIVA matches to have a chance to win the conference regular season title and host the conference tournament. He also said the match against Loyola (8-7, 0-4 MIVA) will be a test to see how much energy his players have left after playing two consecutive five-game matches.
"This is hard, and it is more than our guys are used to doing," Walton said. "It's nothing their bodies aren't capable of working through."