MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State comes home disappointed after Outrigger Invitational

Coach Walton beginning to find core group of starting players

One of the worst possible scenarios following a big upset win is to lose the next match against a lesser opponent.

It's a scenario the No. 12 Ball State men's volleyball team became very familiar with at the 17th Annual Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu, over the weekend.

After sweeping No. 5 Hawaii in its first match of the invitational, Ball State narrowly lost against UCLA, falling 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 30-28. The team followed it up by being swept by Penn State 25-19, 25-21, 25-20.

Coach Joel Walton said defeating Hawaii was a big accomplishment, but he wasn't satisfied with how Ball State played, especially against Penn State.

"I am definitely disappointed in how we finished," Walton said. "We've never been able to beat [Hawaii] in Hawaii, so it really was a huge win for our team. We were close against UCLA, but I was very disappointed in how we played against Penn State."

Walton said there were mistakes on both offense and defense that allowed the Nittany Lions to control the Cardinals' final match of the Outrigger Invitational.

"We just didn't have any defensive run, and our offense was extremely limited," Walton said. "Penn State is a good team and has one extremely gifted outside attacked in Joe Sunder, who ended up being the tournament Most Valuable Player. We couldn't stop him and we couldn't do a very good job against any of the other guys either."

While Ball State lost two of its three matches in the invitational, Walton said there were many positives to take away from how the Cardinals played in the losses.

Ball State held UCLA to a .240 hitting percentage and out-dug the Bruins 40-27. Sophomore Larry Wrather also came away with 17 kills, three blocks and three digs in the match.

Against Penn State, junior Dominic Spadavecchio had seven kills, three digs and a .400 hitting percentage.

Walton said he felt like he may have found the core group that will get the majority of  the playing time for the rest of the season.

"We are settling toward a group that involves [Graham] McIlvaine, [Greg] Herceg, Wrather, Spadavecchio, [Anders] Nelson, [J.D.] Gasparovic and [Tommy] Rouse," Walton said. "We were really pleased with Herceg's play all week long. And that group of players really asserted themselves as guys over the course of the week who played the steadiest and put us in a position to win."

Going forward, Ball State has 10 more days to prepare for its next game against George Mason on Jan. 28.

With the extended time off, Walton said he'll focus on improving many areas of Ball State's offense and defense.

"We've got to work with serving with a couple of guys," Walton said. "We'll also have to look why our blocking wasn't good against Penn State. We're early in the season, but those are just some of the things that we have to work extra on."


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