Last April, Ball State took care of business against Loyola 3-0 in Worthen Arena, but this year's rematch was anything but business as usual.
With a lineup comprised mainly of returning players, Ball State lost 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-21,25-18) to No. 13 Loyola on Saturday night at home.
Ball State lost to Ohio State on Friday night, giving the Cardinals two straight home losses on the weekend in Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association play.
"I don't think we need a psychologist. We just need to be in some of these tough situations and pull through," coach Joel Walton said. "We need to come back and win some games. It's something that comes with experience, and even though we have five seniors, it's still a new group of guys together out on the court and they have to figure that out."
Ball Stat got off to a poor start in the match, committing six service errors in the first set compared Loyola's one service error. Both teams finished the match with 14 service errors, but Loyola had a 5-1 edge in aces.
Ball State couldn't find its offense in third and fourth games, finishing with hitting percentages of .133 and -.043 respectfully.
"Offense with this team continues to be a struggle," Walton said. "It's frustrating because we have had a couple of weeks where our offense has been good, but just the consistency and the ability to produce good offense in a critical conference match, we failed out this weekend."
The Cardinals continued their quest to find a fixed line-up of players at the outside attacker position. Walton started Jamion Hartley, Dominic Spadavecchio, and Larry Wrather as outside attackers, but Lee Meyer and Greg Herceg were substituted in and out during the match.
"We're looking for it and we just haven't had consistent enough play to leave some of the groups in there," Walton said. "It's definitely a weakness right now and it's something we need to get better at.
Wrather had a team-high 14 kills on the night. Spadavecchio had nine and Middle attacker Anders Nelson had eight kills. Libero Tommy Rouse had a match-high 11 digs.
Middle attackers Nelson and J.D. Gasparovic did not get many opportunities to score on the night.
"We are not producing as much offense out of our middles as we would like," Walton said. "Poor passing made that difficult tonight. Loyola is a good serving team and we didn't do the job that we needed to in handling the serve."
Walton said he questions the team's effort on some plays during the match.
"There was a free ball that came to our side of the net and we basically just watched it fall," Walton said. "Those kinds of things are just unacceptable and it played havoc with our team tonight."
With the loss, Ball State drops to 6-6 on the season, but more importantly 1-3 in MIVA action. Although the Cardinals are still in fourth place, they are well behind the league leaders, who are undefeated in the conference.
"We really got our work cut out for us," Walton said. "Yes it is something we can overcome, but we certainly dug an early hole."