No. 13 Ball State men's volleyball got stuck in a rotation it couldn't get out of against No. 7 Lewis.
With the Cardinals leading 21-16 in the second set and looking to take a 2-0 lead, Flyers redshirt senior middle blocker Jacob Schmiegelt got behind the baseline as Lewis rallied off six consecutive points, including two service aces, and gained the momentum and never looked back on their way to a 3-1 (23-25, 27-25, 25-20, 25-20) victory.
"Those points killed us," Ball State senior setter Connor Gross said. "We've had problems sometimes during the season breaking out of those runs and tonight that showed."
The Flyers (21-6, 12-3 MIVA) went on runs of 3-0 or more four times in the match, with Schmiegelt behind the baseline for two of those runs.
"He got on those point-scoring runs and all of a sudden, we're behind," Ball State head coach Joel Walton said. "Our inability to side out efficiently from the start to finish of matches is something that's cost us matches this year."
Ball State (17-9, 8-7 MIVA) was out-blocked by Lewis 16-10 with 10.5 of the Flyers' 16 blocks coming in the final two sets. Walton said the Cardinals ran their offense well in the beginning, but in set three their passing became more tentative.
"We started to pass some high balls and they just got their hands in the right place and began to build some blocks," Walton said. "We had an inability to play consistent."
The Cardinals were led offensively by freshman outside attacker Blake Reardon, who finished with a career-high 13 kills in his first career start. Reardon said he tried not to let the nerves bother him.
"I was so excited that I immediately started shaking and couldn't stop smiling," Reardon said. "I'd rather be out there than anywhere else in the world."
Ball State still has a chance to clinch a home playoff berth in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament with a win over No. 10 Loyola on Saturday, but it must win in straight sets and win each set by an average of six points — Loyola won 3-0 (25-22, 25-11, 25-23) when the teams met in February and would hold the tiebreaker if Ball State wins by less.
"We would've loved the win tonight to make it easier for us to get a home match, but we gotta come out Saturday and grind again," Gross said. "That's the name of the game — we have to come back with the same intensity and bring it."