After weeks of lackluster offensive play from the Ball State men's volleyball team, coach Joel Walton decided to make a few big changes in his lineup.
Two usual starters in senior middle attacker and former All-American J.D. Gasparovic and freshman setter Graham McIlvaine were placed on the bench in Ball State's Friday match against Quincy.
Starting in their place were redshirt freshman middle attacker Derek Menendez and sophomore setter Dan Wichmann. Both have played in no more than 5 sets this season.
Walton's gamble on his untested players paid off, as Ball State swept Quincy 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-17) at Worthen Arena Friday night in the first match of the Cardinals' weekend series against the Hawks.
Menendez finished with five kills on nine attempts for a .444 attack percentage in the match, while Wichmann had 27 assists. Both played in all three games.
Walton cited Ball State's offense as the reason for the lineup change.
"Offense was really the primary thing," he said. "We wanted to see if our offense could pick up with Derek out there, and it did. Dan did a nice job picking the spots that he was going to put the ball."
Cheering the team on from the sidelines was a new experience for Gasparovic. The last time the senior was healthy and didn't start a game was Jan. 26, 2008 vs. New Jersey Institute of Technology. Gasparovic was a freshman at the time.
While it may have been years since Gasparovic last watched a match from the bench, Walton said he hoped the outside attacker would grow from the situation.
"He talked to me a little late in the week on where the team was at and what he needed to do to earn his spot back," Walton said. "I greatly respect his character. It was definitely hard to sit him down tonight."
"I know he's the kind of player that's going to respond to that type of message. I won't be a bit surprised if he gets into a good offensive rhythm as we get into the later parts of the season and we see him back out on the court."
The Cardinals meanwhile had a successful match, led by sophomore Greg Herceg, who had a career-high 12 kills and five digs.
Herceg's fellow outside attackers Dominic Spadavecchio and Larry Wrather made big contributions as well, with seven kills each.
Ball State faces a rematch against Quincy today in a test of whether or not the Cardinals can avoid overlooking a match against a recently defeated opponent.
We can't pat ourselves on the back too much," Walton said. "Quincy isn't going to be at all happy with how tonight went. There's always a human tendency to relax, and that's something that we have to make sure we don't allow happen."