RECAP: Ball State men's volleyball defeats Fort Wayne in first match of I-69 rivalry
No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball (10-2, 2-1 MIVA) held the Fort Wayne Mastodons (4-10, 1-2 MIVA) to a hitting percentage of .168 in their 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-21) victory Feb. 7.
The Cardinals, who finished with a hitting percentage of .349, were led by freshman outside attacker Matt Szews, who finished with 16 kills and eight digs. Szews added nine of his 16 kills in the final set.
"I think we were doing a good job of balancing our offense in the first two sets," Szews said. "In our third set I was like 'Hey, just keep feeding me the ball' and we were connecting really well."
Kills: Matt Szews - 16
Assists: Connor Gross - 34
Digs: Matt Szews - 8
Total Blocks: Matt Walsh - 4
Head coach Joel Walton said he feels fortunate to have a freshman who is able to impact the team's performance in the way Szews has this season.
"You're glad when you have a player like that on your team because you can feed the ball to him and know that he wants the ball in the biggest moments of the match," Walton said. "I'm glad that [senior setter Connor Gross] saw that Szews was ready to go and got him a lot of good opportunities in set three."
Walton also said he was impressed with how often Ball State drew Fort Wayne's setter away from the net with their serve.
"We talked about it between sets two and three about staying aggressive behind the baseline," Walton said. "I think the biggest difference was that our serve just made them uncomfortable."
Ball State had several strong serves from Szews, junior middle attacker Matt Walsh and Gross.
"Tonight, we showed how good of a serving team we are," Gross said. "We really took them out of their system, which makes it a lot easier for our block and defense to operate."
Ball State also had strong performances from senior outside attacker Brendan Surane with seven kills and six digs and junior outside attacker Mitch Weiler, who finished with eight kills and five digs.
The Cardinals will travel north to Fort Wayne for the second match of the I-69 rivalry at 7 p.m. Feb. 10.
"We came out tonight and earned three games but we still have to do the same thing on Friday night," Walton said.