The Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association standings were on shaky ground for No. 15 Ball State University heading into its conference match at IPFW Saturday night, but now those standings are looking brighter.
The Cardinals (14-9, 5-4 MIVA) swept the season series with Mastodons, capturing a 3-0 (30-24, 30-26, 30-24) win and clinching a top-four finish in the MIVA standings and has secured a home match in the MIVA tournament beginning on April 24.
"We played at a mediocre level tonight," coach Joel Walton said. "We were fortunate that IPFW made a lot of mistakes that allowed us to play an average match and still win."
Middles attackers J.D. Gasparovic and Anders Nelson led the team in kills with eight. IPFW (9-15, 2-8 MIVA) was unable to force Ball State to use its outside attackers like it did in their earlier encounter this season in Muncie.
"Our passers did a nice job handling IPFW's serves," Gasparovic said. "So we just did our job."
IPFW had no aces to make up for the 24 service errors it committed on the night. Ball State had five aces with setter Ethan Pheister scoring three of them. Ball State had 14 service errors with eight of them coming in game one alone.
"We never let them get comfortable," Walton said. "They served horrible. They just gave us a lot of easy points."
Despite entering the match midway through game two, outside attacker Matt Sprague hit at a .667 attack rate against the Mastodons, one of highest attack percentages of any Cardinal this season.
Outside attacker Eric Schulte led Ball State's defensive effort with a team-high seven blocks. Nelson was a close second with six blocks on the night.
The previous match with IPFW on February 25 went five games. The players look at Saturday's three-game sweep as a sign of progress as the season has gone on.
"We didn't come out with as much energy as we should have early in the year," Gasparovic said. "We've improved in that area that we don't fall down into early deficits."
IPFW searched deep into their bench to find a spark. The Mastodons played 14 players on the night. To put that in perspective, Ball State played the typical amount of nine players.
IPFW lost to No. 9 Penn State 3-1 on Friday night. Ball State lost 3-2 to Penn State night before in Worthen Arena Thursday night, giving Ball State a day's advantage in rest.
"It's a big conference match," Gasparovic said. "We were definitely pumped; we wanted this conference win."