P.A. announcer Steve Shondell appropriately refers to the front line for the Cardinals as “The Wall of Ball State,” and they were instrumental in helping No. 15 Ball State defeat No. 14 Penn State 3-1 (25-19, 20-25, 25-17, 25-18) Jan. 13.

The Cardinals had a total of 11.5 blocks, including five from senior middle attacker Alex Pia and freshman outside attacker Matt Szews. Junior outside attacker Mitch Weiler and junior middle attacker Matt Walsh totaled four each.

“At Ball State defense has always kind of been our legacy,” Walsh said. “They say offense wins games but defense wins championships, so that’s really been our main focus.”

Stat Leaders

Kills: Brendan Surane & Matt Szews — 14

Blocks: Alex Pia — 5

Assists: Connor Gross — 43

Service Aces: Matt Walsh — 2

Digs: Connor Gross — 12 

Four Ball State players also finished with six or more kills, including 14 each from Szews and senior outside attacker Brendan Surane.

“We always want that balance in our offense because it makes it harder [for other teams] playing against us,” head coach Joel Walton said. “We want to be able to hit people from a lot of different places and force them to spread out their defense.”

After a strong first set, the Cardinals struggled to slow down senior Penn State attacker Chris Nugent, who racked up 12 kills through two sets. The Cardinals, however, tightened up their defense and Nugent only mustered five more the rest of the game.

“We knew we had to play better defense around the block so we could play better transitions so they wouldn’t get a kill on every swing,” Surane said. “Every time that [Nugent] was an option we headed his way so he wouldn’t get an easy kill.”

Walton said the Cardinals struggled getting their blocks right in the second set but once they figured it out, they didn’t look back.

“They were continuously throwing him a ball so [Nugent] wasn’t just getting swings on only one or two guys,” Walton said. “Our guys did a good job with their hands, making good deflections and playing defense in the back row.”

It was the second consecutive win for the Cardinals after beating Saint Francis Jan. 12. Surane said getting two wins at Worthen Arena will play a huge role in getting the Cardinals ready for next week’s matches.

“It’s always kind of tough when you’re going on the road, especially when we’re going about 14 hours away,” Surane said. “Just to get these two big wins at home before we go into that trip really gives us confidence.”

The Cardinals head to the East Coast next week to take on Harvard University at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 and Sacred Heart University at 7 p.m. Jan. 21.