Kills: Matt Szews - 18
Assists: Connor Gross - 46
Digs: Adam Wessell - 9
Total blocks: Matt Walsh - 6
Trailing 2-1, No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball could have panicked or froze against Fort Wayne.
Instead, the Cardinals rallied behind the hot hand and positive mindset of freshman outside attacker Matt Szews to win 3-2 (25-23, 17-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-10).
"I knew we could have won it the entire time," Szews said. "I think I just have that mentality, but I always knew we could win."
Szews finished Ball State's (11-2, 3-1 MIVA) comeback win against Fort Wayne (4-11, 1-3 MIVA) one shy of his career high with 18 kills.
Head coach Joel Walton said he emphasized serving with the Cardinals trailing at intermission.
"We did a better job with our serve and put some pressure on them," Walton said. "It was able to create some defensive opportunities and forced more errors out of their attackers."
Ball State forced twelve Fort Wayne errors in the final two sets and also held the Mastodons to an attack percentage of .153 in sets four and five.
"Our defense was having some difficulty with their setter up on the net," Walton said. "We knew we had to do a better job at the service line to make them more uncomfortable and make their offense more predictable."
Ball State's 25-17 loss in the second set tied its largest margin of defeat in a set this season. After dropping the third set 25-20, the Cardinals trailed a match for the first time since losing at home against Ohio State.
"There were a few plays near the end of game three where a ball went down on the floor and we just had guys standing there," Walton said. "They were looking at each other almost as if to ask permission to make a play, and it shouldn't be that way."
The Cardinals, who finished with an attack percentage of .316, hit .494 in the final two sets.
"I think in the last two games we just did a better job of being aggressive," Szews said. "Whether that be defensively, serving wise, attacking wise, blocking wise, I think that's what kind of helped us to get through."
After defeating the Mastodons 3-0 at Worthen Arena on Feb. 7, Walton said the atmosphere and intensity brought by Fort Wayne made the match more difficult.
"It's just really difficult to beat a team twice in one week," Walton said. "The [team that loses the first match] comes in pissed and motivated to improve on their mistakes, and our guys had to push with everything they had and fight for the victory. I'm proud of the guys on the win. I just wish they wouldn't have made it so hard on me."
The Cardinals travel to Illinois next weekend for matches against No. 6 Lewis at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 and a match against No. 10 Loyola on Feb. 18.