RECAP: No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball defeats No. 12 Loyola in MIVA quarterfinals
Trailing 15-14 in the third set, sophomore libero Adam Wessell made a lunging save dig for No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball that kept the point alive and eventually led to a Loyola attack error.
That allowed senior setter Connor Gross to go back behind the baseline and rally off six straight points, giving the Cardinals a 20-15 run and putting the moment on Ball State's side.
"I just tried to put pressure on them and it was crucial for our team to work on defense and get some confidence going," Gross said. "We're a confident bunch right now and we're starting to get our swagger back."
Kills: Blake Reardon & Matt Szews — 11
Assists: Connor Gross — 39
Service Aces: Blake Reardon — 2
Digs: Mitch Weiler — 9
Total Blocks: Parker Swartz, Matt Walsh & Mitch Weiler — 3
The Cardinals (19-9, 9-7 MIVA) would go on to win the match 3-1 (17-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-23) to advance to the MIVA semifinals, where they'll face No. 1 seed Ohio State Wednesday.
Ball State got an energy boost in the final set from sophomore middle attacker Parker Swartz, who finished the match off with the game-winning kill.
Swartz finished with a career-high eight kills.
"We've been working hard on closing out games and making sure we push strong at the end and get that last kill," Swartz said. "I'm also gonna give a little credit to Blake [Reardon] too because he got his hand on it so I'll give him a half kill."
Freshman outside attackers Matt Szews and Blake Reardon led Ball State with 11 kills each. Reardon said it was important for the Cardinals to change their mindset after the first set and regain composure.
"They came out and punched us in the mouth," Reardon said. "We had to come out and start fighting — we weren't really fighting in the first set but we came out and figured it out."
Loyola (16-12, 9-7 MIVA) started off the match hot with freshman outside attacker Kyler Kostakis racking up four of his eight kills and two service aces in the first set. Before tonight's match, Kostakis had played just 14 sets all season.
"He did a good job with his serves and they were just humming offensively," Ball State head coach Joel Walton said. "If you have someone on your bench late in the season like Kostakis that can come in and play well, that can be a big weapon for you."
With a rematch with the Buckeyes upcoming, Walton said they need to continue to feed off big moments like they did with Gross' serving run.
"Those are the kind of things you have to do during tournament time because every point matters," Walton said. "Whether it's a big dig or a big swing, you have to live off of that energy."