RECAP: Men's volleyball vs. NJIT
No. 13 Ball State used a variety of rotations with fifteen players seeing action on their way to a 3-1 (25-19, 25-17, 24-26, 25-12) win over the New Jersey Institute of Technology to improve to 8-1 on the season.
The Cardinals were led by freshman outside attacker Matt Szews, who finished the night with 11 kills, with four of them coming in the final set. Szews also had five digs and two aces to help give the Cardinals their sixth consecutive win.
"I think I just had the mindset to come out and hit the floor every single point and go all out on every play," Szews said.
Kills: Matt Szews — 11
Assists: Connor Gross — 28
Service Aces: Parker Swartz — 3
Digs: Adam Wessell — 12
Blocks: Matt Walsh — 7
After winning the first set 25-19, head coach Joel Walton brought in several of the reserves to play in the second set. Senior outside attacker Mike "Skip" Scannell and junior outside attacker Nate Wolf both finished with season-highs in kills with six and five, respectively.
"It's really valuable for us to work guys who are on the bench into the court because you never know what situation you may run into," Walton said. "We know they can step in and help our team be successful on any given night."
However, after dropping the third set, Walton decided to put the starters back in for the fourth set. Ball State would end up winning the fourth set 25-12, but it was freshman Lemuel Turner who got his first career kill to seal the deal for the Cardinals.
In the three sets that Ball State won, the Cardinals never trailed at any point.
"The three sets that we played well in we were able to maintain ball control " Walton said. "We were running our offense up at the net and it put a lot of pressure on their blockers."
The Cardinals also had a big performance from junior middle attacker Matt Walsh, who finished with seven kills and seven blocks. By getting himself more involved in the offense, Walsh said it helps make the Ball State offense more dynamic.
"If you have a middle that's getting a lot of kills, then their middle has to stay more focused on them," Walsh said. "If I draw the other middle, then it gives Szews or Weiler or Surane a chance at a one-on-one block and it's much easier to get a kill."
The NJIT Highlanders were led by senior outside attacker Jabarry Goodridge, who finished with 15 kills. Walton referred to Goodridge as "one of the East Coast's elite attackers."
"Jabarry picked up a number of errors and that was because of the pressure of our blocks," Walton said. "I felt like when our serve was hitting the court, we were making it harder for them to get into an offensive rhythm."
With tomorrow's celebration of Worthen Arena's 25th anniversary, Walton said it was important for the team to get a win on the eve of the celebration.
"Worthen Arena has always been a great selling tool for our program, it's been a great home court environment for us," Walton said. "There just aren't spaces like this where men's volleyball programs get to compete in across the United States."
Ball State begins conference play next week at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 vs. No. 1 Ohio State.