It was an emotional afternoon inside Worthen Arena Saturday as No. 15 Ball State (13-11, 4-5 MIVA) closed out the home portion of its regular-season schedule. The Cardinals welcomed No. 7 Lewis (18-5, 9-1 MIVA), who were coming into the match on an 11-match win streak.
Despite the Cardinals’ sub-.500 record in MIVA play this season, 21 kills from junior outside attacker Matt Szews and an .800 hitting percentage from sophomore setter Quinn Isaacson sealed a 3-2 upset victory for the Cardinals.
“[The win] was a great boost of energy,” Szews said. “It’s something that we’re going to be proud of, and we now know that we have the skills to compete with very high-level teams. It was a battle, but it was a really nice team win.”
The Flyers are the highest ranked team the Cardinals have defeated this season. Head coach Joel Walton said he believed his team’s competitive mindset after Thursday’s 3-0 loss to No. 10 Loyola-Chicago was a major factor in the victory.
“[Lewis] is a team that, going into the season, I felt like we could be competitive with,” Walton said. “We’ve had some moments where we haven’t played well, but I was really pleased to see our offense work for the majority of the match.”
The Cardinals were outblocked 12-9, but sophomore outside attacker Ben Chinnici notched a season-high 13 digs. Isaacson said the team’s defense played a tremendous role in the victory.
“I think we had really, really good moments on defense,” Isaacson said. “I also thought we had some poor moments that we need to work on, but I think when the defense is on, we’re rolling at our best.”
Isaacson said the team’s quick start in set one benefited the Cardinals going forward. The Cardinals took set one 25-21 off of a kill from Szews.
The second set saw both teams go to extra points. However, the Flyers tied the match, taking the set 29-27 on a Cardinal attack error.
The Flyers took their momentum into the third with a 10-2 lead early and eventually a 25-16 win to take the set. The Flyers were led by junior outside hitter Ryan Coenen’s 23 kills and senior setter Matt Yoshimoto’s 43 assists.
“The letdown in game three was all about our serving,” Walton said. “We just didn’t put the ball in play. I think we waivered after losing the second game so close.”
The Cardinals came back to begin set four with five straight kills and took the fourth 25-12 off of a kill from freshman outside attacker Kaleb Jenness.
Heading into the fifth tied at two apiece, a .381 hitting percentage from the Cardinals in set five propelled them to win, 15-10. The match also saw the Cardinals tally eight service aces including three from Szews.
“I struggled with my serving early on,” Szews said, “But when I put my serve in, it put some pressure on Lewis, which is good. I think it speaks for the whole team; we missed a few serves in the early games, but we served well later in the match.”
Despite Saturday’s win, the rest of the Cardinals’ regular-season schedule does not get any easier. The team begins a five-match road trip Tuesday at No. 13 Purdue Fort-Wayne, who the Cardinals fell to 3-0 Feb. 21. However, Walton said he expects high levels of energy going forward after today’s comeback.
“Our guys have to be ready to fight,” Walton said. “It’s not easy the rest of the way out. We’ve got to go into other people’s gyms, and we’ve got to play the way we did in Worthen tonight.”