After Ball State men's volleyball's loss to No. 7 Lewis Thursday night, senior outside attacker Edgardo Cartagena thought that his next match against No. 10 Loyola-Chicago on Saturday could be the last time that he and the other seniors would step foot on to the court at Worthen Arena.
But Cartagena's 12 kills and attack percentage of .550 wasn't going to let that happen.
The Cardinals (18-9, 9-7 MIVA) needed to sweep the Ramblers and win by a point margin of twenty or more to clinch a home Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament match. They did just that by defeating Loyola 3-0 (25-21, 25-15, 25-19).
"We weren't sure we'd be playing [in Worthen Arena] again so it's just an awesome feeling," Cartagena said. "I'm very excited to be able to head into the playoffs with a match like this. It's just a great turn around."
The sweep was the Cardinals' first straight-sets victory since March 10, when Ball State defeated UC San Diego 3-0 in Columbus, Ohio. It was also the fifth time the Cardinals swept a conference opponent this season.
Coming into Saturday's match, the Cardinals knew there was one very specific scenario that would give them a home playoff match, but senior setter Connor Gross said if the team just played with a strong mindset, the rest would take care of itself.
"I knew that they were going to come in here and want to try to kill us, and that mindset hasn't changed for me either," Gross said. "I wanted to do the same thing."
Ball State head coach Joel Walton was impressed with Cartagena's performance this weekend — he finished with a total of 16 kills, eight digs and three blocks. Walton said it's important for a team to get a strong performance from one of its role players late in the season.
"It's what you need in important matches and tournament time," Walton said. "It's not only the usual suspects, but also some of the role players who need to put in an aggressive and focused performance."
Ball State started the weekend off with a 3-1 loss (25-23, 25-27, 20-25, 20-25) to Lewis, making it the third consecutive time the Cardinals have lost to the Flyers (22-6, 13-3 MIVA).
"We weren't passing very well and we often had to hit against two or three defenders, so it was hard to get the job done," freshman outside attacker Blake Reardon said.
The Cardinals will begin their postseason play Saturday with a rematch against Loyola (16-11, 9-7 MIVA) in Worthen Arena. Freshman outside attacker Matt Szews said if the Cardinals continue to play to the best of their ability then the rest will fall in place.
"I don't think we need to focus on finding fire, I think we need to focus on playing well because when we play well we build fire," Szews said. "I can't name one person on this team who goes out there and plays for themselves."