Ball State men’s volleyball entered the fifth set of Friday’s match determined to not let a third consecutive game end in a loss.
That determination paid off. Ball State (3-2) scored the final six points of the set to cap off a 3-2 (25-13, 25-16, 25-27, 21-25, 15-7) win against Sacred Heart (0-1).
“Early on we did a pretty good job with our offense,” head coach Joel Walton said. “Our defense was good and we were putting a lot of pressure on Sacred Heart. In game three out defense wasn’t as good, that allowed them to play us a lot closer and they made a couple of key plays right at the end of that game to push it into a fourth and eventually a fifth game.”
Ball State won the first two sets in convincing fashion, going on three separate 6-0 runs in just the opening set on the way to a 25-13 win. The team was able to build off that early momentum and run away with yet another 6-0 run to take control of the second set, which they would end up winning by a decisive 25-13 margin.
Despite two dominating sets from the Cardinals, the momentum seemed to shift in the blink of an eye.
“I feel like we kind of let up and relaxed a little bit in the third and fourth games,” said senior middle attacker Matt Walsh. “When they came back and won those two we really wanted this win and were going to do everything to get it.”
Sacred Heart jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the third set with the help of a service error from junior middle attacker Parker Swartz and an attacking error from sophomore outside attacker Matt Szews. Ball State still found itself with match point opportunities in the third set, but three straight attack errors helped Sacred Heart survive and force a fourth set.
After Sacred Heart used that momentum to force a deciding fifth set, Ball State found itself on the ropes.
“It seemed like Sacred Heart – at points in game four – felt like ‘All I have to do is hit a ball toward the court and I’m going to get a kill,’ our defense wasn’t stopping anything,” Walton said.
Ball State was able to overcome the adversity and win the final set in convincing fashion, scoring the final six points to seal its third win of the season.
“It was nice to see us figure things out again in game five and play a better game when it mattered the most, Walton said.
“They helped us a little bit. Three or four of their early servers missed their serves so we were getting easy points and our offense didn’t have to work early on in that game. We were doing a good job with our serve and we opened up a couple of runs at points.”
Walsh had a solid game and came up big in key moments with timely kills. The Chicago native finished the night with 15 kills, six block assists and led the team by a wide margin with a .636 hitting percentage.
“Walsh struggled a little bit last weekend, so it was good to see him get back on track this weekend,” Walton said. “He’s a key part of how our team is going to run offense for us this year. Whether he’s generating kills for us or pulling the block in his direction, there are just a lot of things that he does that open up offensive options for our team. He’s very important.”
Walsh was quick to credit the passing of his teammates for allowing him to have a big night and generate points in crucial moments.
“Our passing was really good tonight, [Jake] Romano and Courtland [Scharenborg] found me in transition all the time and kept it for me where I was able to hit good shots and find the floor,” Walsh said.
Freshman outside hitter Ben Chinnici continued his strong start to his career, finishing with 10 kills and nine digs. Szews finished with a team-high 17 kills, two service aces, nine digs and three total blocks in a solid all-around performance.
Ball State will return to Worthen Arena Saturday night to host Harvard at 7:30 p.m. for the final match of its six-match home stand.