Ball State fights back to knock off No. 10 Penn State
An underdog status didn't stop the Ball State men's volleyball team from competing Saturday night.
Despite its 2-0 record and Penn State's 0-2 start, Ball State faced a tall task in the country's No. 10 team. The Cardinals only lost one set coming into the night, while the Nittany Lions only won two sets in their past two matches.
The match was competitive from the opening set. Whenever either team got on a streak, the other answered right back.
Ball State had the streak that mattered most, as they erased a 2-0 deficit to defeat Penn State 3-2.
"It feels awesome, you know they were a great team. Coming back, we were down 2-0 and we were fortunately able to come back and win this match," junior Hiago Garchet said. "This is just the beginning. We've got to keep working hard and playing better and better."
Ball State trailed for a majority of the first set until they took a 27-26 late lead. Penn State fought back and won 31-29.
The Cardinals opened the second set with a quick 4-0 lead controlled by sophomore Brendan Surane's two aces. Ball State's lead was quickly diminished and the Cardinals took a timeout trailing 20-22.
The Nittany Lions led 2-0 after finishing the second set with a 22-25 victory. Despite the hard-fought sets, it appeared Penn State would go home with its first victory.
The third set started off close between the two teams and remained that way throughout. Penn State took a timeout trailing 24-22 before Ball State capped off the third set with a 26-24 victory.
The Cardinals' offense began to pick up steam in the third set as well.
"Offense was a big thing, and Hiago was quarterbacking our offense tonight," head coach Joel Walton said. "He did a nice job making good decisions and getting balls in the right places for our offense to attack."
Garchet finished the match with 56 assists while leading the team to a .331 attack percentage.
In the fourth set, the momentum shifted entirely to the Cardinals as they held a controlling 16-12 lead, forcing the Nittany Lions to call a timeout. Ball State continued its run, forcing another timeout on its way to a 25-19 set four win.
The fifth set proved to be just as competitive as the four before it. Before switching sides, the Cardinals took an 8-6 lead.
Ball State was forced to call a timeout after its lead shrank to 14-12 nearing the end of the match. However, the Cardinals capped off the impressive comeback win with a 15-12 victory in the final set.
"We dropped off in game two, then we hit over .300 in the last three games," Walton said. "We hit over .300 against a nationally ranked team. That's a number we've struggled to hit in the past six years against better opponents."
Three Cardinals finished with double-digit kills in the match. Junior Marcin Niemczewski had 19 to lead the team, while Shane Witmer had 17 and Matt Sutherland added 13.
The win moves Ball State to 3-0 on the season. The team will return to action Saturday against St. Francis.