RECAP: Strong defense carries No. 11 Ball State to 3-0 win over Grand Canyon

Junior middle attacker Matt Walsh spikes the ball at the game against Ohio State on Feb. 2 in Worthen Arena. The Cardinals lost 3-0 to the Buckeyes. Kaiti Sullivan // DN
Junior middle attacker Matt Walsh spikes the ball at the game against Ohio State on Feb. 2 in Worthen Arena. The Cardinals lost 3-0 to the Buckeyes. Kaiti Sullivan // DN

Leading 21-19 in the first set, junior middle attacker Matt Walsh soared high for a monster kill that had the entire Ball State men's volleyball bench going crazy.

Head coach Joel Walton called the play a "perfect connection between two players." 

"The ball that [Walsh] bounced, that was pretty spectacular, was a great feed from Connor Gross," Walton said. "Mitch Weiler dug a ball to put Connor in a perfect place and he just left the ball behind for [Walsh] to finish off the play."

After winning that first set 25-21, the No. 11 Cardinals (14-4, 6-3 MIVA) went on four runs of 5-0 or better in sets two and three to get the 3-0 (25-21, 25-10, 25-21) victory over Grand Canyon. 

Ball State held Grand Canyon (9-8, 5-4 MIVA) to an attack percentage of -.091, its lowest of the season. The Cardinals also finished with a season-high 15 team blocks with Walsh finishing with a season-high 12 total blocks. Walsh credited the team's solid defense to some solid serving. 

"Our serving was really good this match, it was probably the best it's been all year," Walsh said. "That really helps out our blockers get into a better spot because their attackers don't have as many options." 

Ball State also had a strong showing from freshman outside attacker Matt Szews. Szews finished the night with a team-high 12 kills and 11 digs. Senior setter Connor Gross said his connection with Szews has gotten stronger throughout the season.

"He's a guy with a big window and he's a phenomenal attacker," Gross said. "When you have guys like that around you, it's pretty easy to build a connection." 

Szews also had another solid night behind the service line. He didn't finish with any service aces but he was able to put pressure on Grand Canyon's attackers with his serve. 

"He's somebody that puts a lot of pressure on our opponents and we love having that weapon," Walton said. "He's able to hit a number of different balls and he's been able to put a good pace on the ball this season." 

Ball State did a good job defending against Grand Canyon's junior outside hitter Shalev Saada in tonight's win. Saada averages 2.65 kills per set, but was held to just three kills in the match. However, Walton said they can't lay down against Saada Thursday night.

"He's not someone who's going to back down," Walton said. "He's going to come back tomorrow night motivated so we don't want to let him get on track." 

After playing their last five matches on the road and finishing with a record of 3-2, Walsh said it was a relief to be able to be back in Worthen Arena. 

"It's a lot more relaxing because you don't have to worry about other fans heckling you," Walsh said. "You get to have your own fans heckle the other team for once, which helps out a lot." 

Ball State plays Grand Canyon again tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Gross said the team can't lose focus and has to be prepared to do it all over again tomorrow.

"We have to have a short memory and enjoy it while we can because tomorrow night's going to be an absolute war," Gross said.


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