Ball State men’s volleyball (14-11, 7-4 MIVA) received a big lift from an unlikely hero in tonight’s 3-2 (18-25, 25-21, 21-25, 25-18, 21-19) victory over Lindenwood (8-13, 2-9 MIVA), and that hero was freshman outside attacker Ryan Dorgan.
“I thought Dorgan did a good job even starting the fourth set,” head coach Joel Walton said. “He took a couple of big swings for us. Not to say that he saved the match, but Dorgan made a diving save to keep the ball alive, and it didn’t look like we were going to be able to save the rally, and we ended up winning that point. That allowed us to work our way back in that final game.”
Coming into the match, Dorgan had only seen action in six matches and never tallied more than three kills, but his presence was felt tonight. Although the numbers weren’t staggering at five kills and four digs, the Spencerport, New York, native brought an unmatched energy into the match for Ball State when the team was on the ropes.
“I’ve been an energy guy my entire career,” Dorgan said while grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve always loved to get on the court and play. It’s so much fun bringing that energy for me and just seeing the other guys get amped up like that is an incredible feeling. I love it.”
It was a long road to reach that elation for Ball State, though.
Lindenwood looked like anything but a team with a 2-8 conference record. The Cardinals started out with a 6-1 lead in the opening set and looked like they would cruise through set one, but that wasn’t the case. A resilient Lindenwood team kept chipping away at Ball State’s lead until the score was tied at 12 apiece. After that, the teams traded points until the score reached 16-16. Then, the visitors took over. Lindenwood went on to score nine of the final 11 points en route to an upset in the opening set, winning by a score of 25-18.
Parker Swartz, Matt Szews and Matt Walsh all led the Cardinals with three kills each. However, Ball State hit just .069 as a team, and Lindenwood registered four total team blocks to give itself the win.
Ball State awoke in the second set and wouldn’t be denied.
The Cardinals again leapt out to a quick lead, building a 5-2 advantage early in the set. But again, Lindenwood fought back. The visitors eventually gained an 8-6 lead, but Ball State made sure it was short-lived. From there, Ball State kept Lindenwood at an arm’s length, not allowing to get within less than three points once the team captured a 15-12 lead. The Cardinals eventually finished off the set and tied the match with a 25-21 victory to even things up at one apiece as both teams headed toward the locker room.
“Those games that we won, we passed extremely well,” freshman outside hitter Ben Chinnici said. “That let’s us run our offense really efficiently, and that was huge.”
Through two sets, Matt Szews paced the Cardinals with seven kills, while Matt Walsh and Parker Swartz weren’t far behind with five apiece. Nick Lavanchy played solid defense through the first two games with seven digs. Ball State’s hitting percentage saw major improvements after a dismal first set, rising to .185 at the half.
Ball State couldn’t carry that momentum into the third set.
The Cardinals again started the set out strong like they had for most of the night. However, Ball State had a repeat performance of the first set where it was unable to sustain much momentum. A triple block by the Lions eventually gave them a two-point lead in the set, and they wouldn’t relinquish it the rest of the way. Jake Romano tried to lead a late charge for Ball State, rattling off a kill and two straight service aces to pull the team within a point, but it wasn’t enough. A Lindenwood kill from Nick Stevenson sealed the set for the visitors, 25-21.
Ball State needed to rebound and force a fifth set.
Much like the rest of the night, Ball State jumped out to a quick lead at 6-2. This time, the Cardinals maintained the lead and never let the Lions come within striking distance on the way to a 25-18 victory to force the deciding set.
It wasn’t all good news for Ball State, though. With the score at 23-15 in favor of the Cardinals, Matt Szews turned an ankle when he came down on a block attempt and clutched it going to the floor. The crowd sat in complete silence while he was checked on by trainers. Eventually, he stood up and walked off the court under his own power, which drew applause from the crowd, but he then headed to the locker room until midway through the fifth set.
Walton wasn’t able to provide any information on the severity of the injury, but Szews was up beside the bench and running drills with the team’s trainer during the fifth set.
“We really won’t know that until we get into the next couple of days and see what happens with his ankle tonight and tomorrow,” Walton said. That’s where we’re really going to have a better understanding of how severe that injury is.”
With Szews sidelined for the final set, Dorgan saw significant playing time and seized his opportunity.
“It felt great,” Dorgan said. “I’m just happy I was given an opportunity by the coaches to come in and help the team. I feel like when we went into the fifth set, we really cut down on our compound errors, and we started making our serves, which is great. We played some incredible defense.”
When Lindenwood had a chance to claim victory, Dorgan made a diving save to keep a rally alive and allow Ball State to win a match-saving point, which drew an electric reaction from the crowd, Dorgan and his teammates. The freshman outside attacker registered two of his five kills in overtime of the fifth set, including one to keep the match alive before Ball State eventually closed out the win.
“That’s huge, especially in a big game like that,” Chinnici said. “To have a player come in who we all know is a huge energy player and a huge hype player. To have him come in and play well along with that energy just brings the whole team up.”
Overall, Matt Walsh led the team in kills with 14, while Matt Szews and Ben Chinnici finished with a dozen apiece to round out the Ball State players with double-figure kills. Four different Cardinals finished the match with 10 or more digs in a solid defensive effort: Matt Szews (13), Mitch Weiler (13), Jake Romano (11) and Nick Lavanchy (12).
Ball State finished with a .179 hitting percentage and 67 total digs to complement 11 total blocks. Lindenwood finished with 13.5 total blocks, 47 kills and 58 digs. The Lions were led by Sam Schindler with 13 kills.
Ball State will return to Worthen Arena Saturday to finish its weekend with a match against Quincy at 7:30 p.m.