A .147 to .292 gap in hitting percentage and 18 attack errors proved costly for No. 12 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (7-8, 1-4 MIVA) Thursday, as the team fell 3-0 to No. 15 Purdue Fort Wayne (9-7, 3-2 MIVA).

Coming off a two-match road trip last weekend with losses to No. 10 Lewis and No. 7 Loyola-Chicago, head coach Joel Walton has been disappointed with his team’s effort.

“Every conference match is becoming more and more critical,” Walton said. “We’re losing to some teams that I think we’re capable of beating, but some teams have outplayed us.”

Junior outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas was a standout for the Mastodons, leading the team with 19 kills. The Mastodons were also led by sophomore outside hitter Kade Bontrager. 

“Bontrager is really just a substitute, he shouldn’t have even been out there even with an injury happening” Walton said. “Vargas was just more than we could overcome. When Vargas gets going, he lights [the Mastodons] up.”

Set one saw the Cardinals take multiple three and four point leads early on. However, a .077 hitting percentage cost the Cardinals the set, 25-21.

Sophomore outside attacker Ben Chinnici said his team giving up leads may have been a result of overconfidence and physical errors.

“We had leads, and we threw them away,” sophomore outside attacker Ben Chinnici said. “We started off games pretty well, which is something we don’t normally do..”

Set two saw the Cardinals go to extra points, but Vargas’ play gave the Mastodons a 26-24 win. The Mastodons would take set three, 25-20, to sweep the match.

Thursday’s match was the Cardinals fifth straight without junior setter Jake Romano, who suffered a thumb injury earlier this month. The Cardinals have gone 1-4 without his presence, with all four matches being against MIVA opponents.

“These losses have hit us hard,” Chinnici said. “We know that conference matches are huge. To lose these past four is very motivating. It’s kind of like hitting rock-bottom, with losing these matches you know you shouldn’t be.”

The Cardinals will be off until March 1, when the team hosts Lindenwood at Worthen. Walton said an extended period off could be valuable to re-energize. 

“We’ve got two more important conference matches at home and a stretch of important conference matches on the road late in the season,” Walton said. “Right now, it’s about getting back into an offensive rhythm and running some good defensive strategies against teams running a good left-side offense.”

Contact Connor Smith with comments at cnsmith@bsu.edu or on Twitter @cnsmithBSU