Ball State holds on to beat UC Irvine, 3-2
Ball State men's volleyball took on its seventh ranked opponent of the season in No. 13 University of California Irvine.
The Cardinals, who are ranked 10th in the NCAA, took down the Anteaters in five sets (25-23, 29-27, 19-25, 22-25, 15-12). The win propelled Ball State to 17-5 on the season and 4-3 against ranked opponents.
Ball State game leaders
Kills - Brendan Surane (22)
Blocks - Alex Pia (9)
Assists - Hiago Garchet (42)
Service Aces - Brendan Surane (2)
Digs - Mitch Weiler (21)
Head coach Joel Walton admitted it wasn't his team's best game, but he was happy with the win.
“It wasn’t a real pretty match either way, we were just good enough to win,” Walton said.
The first set was filled with service errors by both teams. Ball State finished the first set with a service percentage of .833 while UC Irvine had a .792. Defensively, the Cardinals were strong, recording 4.5 team blocks in the set.
Junior middle attacker Alex Pia had four block assists in that set. Senior outside attacker Edgardo Cartagena got the start in place of junior outside attacker Mike Scannell, who usually starts on the right side.
“[Cartagena] played well ... at IPFW, and we wanted to give him another chance to step on the court,” Walton said.
UC Irvine lost the first two sets but kept both of them close. There were 18 tied scores, which pushed the second into extra points before Ball State slipped away with the 29-27 victory going into the locker room.
Junior outside attacker Brendan Surane had six kills in that set alone. He finished the match with 22 total kills.
“They kind of had smaller blockers, so I was taking advantage of that whenever I could and that amounted to a lot of kills,” Surane said.
After the 10-minute break between the second and third set, Ball State came out in the third set without once having a lead. UC Irvine showed its dominance on the offensive side with its .423 attack percentage compared with the .125 percentage Ball State put up.
Set four, Ball State briefly led but ultimately fell to the strong kills from senior middle back Jason Agopian and junior opposite Michael Saeta. Agopian and Saeta, along with senior outside hitter Kyle Russell, all played for Walton during the summer in South Korea.
“They changed some of their personnel, they started to study out,” Walton said. "Game one, they made a lot of attacking errors; game two, they made a ton of serving errors, so they just gave us points. We didn’t have any offense going.”
Ball State came out with more fight in the fifth and final set, Walton said.
“I liked that our guys fought in the fifth game. ... Surane was big for us in a lot of different moments, taking good swings,” Walton said.
Ball State remains tied with Ohio State for first place in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association conference. The Cardinals will take on the Buckeyes at home on March 25 in their second to last home game of the season.