March Madness has finally visited Ball State University this year.
Ball State went from being swept by No. 3 Cal State Northridge on Friday night to returning the favor by sweeping the Matadors 30-24, 30-28, 30-22 Saturday night in Worthen Arena.
It was Ball State's first victory against a ranked opponent in six attempts this season and the first time the Cardinals have defeated a top-five ranked team since defeating then-No. 4 IPFW in February 1999.
"I've watched a lot of upsets, but I've never been a part of one." middle attacker Anders Nelson said. "We really focused the last 24 hours on the things we didn't do well last night. This is a big win for our team definitely."
Nelson finished the night with 11 kills and a match-high eight blocks.
Outside attacker Lee Meyer led the Cardinals in kills with 12.
Outside attacker Larry Wrather, the shortest player on Ball State at 5-foot-11, sealed the upset with a match-winning solo block in the third game.
"That felt great to have that happen," Wrather said. "The funny thing is I was told to come in on the middles and I guess I didn't get that and I just released instead of committing so I guess that turned out to be a good thing."
Wrather finished match with four blocks and nine kills.
Ball State had 12 service errors, three fewer than Cal-State Northridge.
"That's a big part of volleyball," setter Ethan Pheister said. "[Friday] they won the serve-pass battle by a long shot, and tonight we won the serve pass battle. It's important that we did that because nine times out of 10 that determines who is going to win the game."
The serving contributing to the blocking schemes on the night, coach Joel Walton said, as Cal State Northridge could not pass as well and get their middle attackers involved in the offense. The Cardinals out blocked the Matadors 15.5 to 6.
"If you are serving a team tough, you either get them off the net so they have to set to their outsides or you get them out of rhythm," Walton said. "So our serving definitely contributed to our blocking effort."
Ball State held Cal State Northridge's All-American middle attacker Jacek Ratajczak to six kills and a .118 attack percentage — his second lowest attack percentage in a match this season. In addition, middle attacker Kevin McKniff had seven kills after finishing the victory on Friday with a match-high 13 kills.
Nelson, who had half of his teams' blocks, credits his teammates for the defensive performance.
"Larry blocked great [Saturday], Lee Meyer blocked great [Saturday], so when you are blocking next to those guys it's easy to rack up a whole lot of blocks," Nelson said.
Ball State (13-8, 4-4 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) had won two games against a ranked opponent coming into the match. Walton said because of Ball State's struggles and inconsistent play this season he only felt comfortable after got the match-winning point to complete the upset.
"There wasn't a moment where I was comfortable and some of that stems from how we've played this year," Walton said. "We've been good in situations and our team has not been able to finish. When we scored the last point there was thrill and elation and that's when I knew that we had done what we needed to tonight and I was very proud of our team."