Sophomore Jake Romano helps the ball over the net during the first game against Lindenwood on March 30 at John E. Worthen Arena. Romano had 50 assists during the game. Rebecca Slezak, DN
No. 13 Ball State Men's Volleyball struggles with serving, passing against No. 15 Purdue Fort Wayne
Junior outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas’ 19 kills and .351 hitting percentage was too much to handle for No. 13 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (13-11, 4-6 MIVA) Tuesday. The Cardinals began their five-match MIVA road trip Tuesday with a 3-0 loss to No. 15 Purdue Fort Wayne (14-9, 6-4 MIVA).
After a 3-2 win Saturday over Lewis, head coach Joel Walton said he was frustrated with the Cardinals’ serving effort Tuesday. The Mastodons had five service aces on 12 misses, but the Cardinals only had one service ace from junior middle attacker Lemuel Turner on 14 misses.
The Mastodons swept the season series between both teams, and the Cardinals suffered 21 attack errors and 14 service errors in the match.
“We just didn’t take [Purdue Fort Wayne] out of system very much,” Walton said, “and we were not very comfortable for the majority of the match.”
The match also saw freshman outside attacker Kaleb Jenness suffer an injury to his pinky finger. The Cardinals have remained relatively healthy this season, as junior setter Jake Romano has recently seen more playing time after being sidelined on Feb. 7 with a thumb injury. Walton said the exact symptoms of Jenness’ injury remain unknown.
“We’re not sure what the diagnosis is going to be,” Walton said. “We’re waiting to hear from the hospital.”
Vargas has been a consistent driving force for the Mastodons in their two matches against the Cardinals this season, with a combined 38 kills in both Tuesday’s match and the Mastodons’ 3-0 win on Feb. 21.
“[Vargas] was somebody we had to do a good job on tonight, and we just didn’t,” Walton said. “He generated a lot of offense, and something we wanted to do was serve a lot of balls at him. Pelegrin [Vargas] hit a good number and [Purdue Fort Wayne’s] middles put a lot of pressure on us as well.”
Set one saw both teams go to extra points after being tied 24-24. However, two attack errors from junior outside attacker Matt Szews cost the Cardinals set one, 31-29.
Szews led the Cardinals in digs with eight, while sophomore outside attacker Ben Chinnici led the team in kills with 12.
“The first set we battled pretty well, in spite of not passing,” Walton said. “Games two and three we passed better, but there were still moments where [Purdue Fort Wayne] would get us in rotation and we would struggle getting the ball to the net.”
The Mastodons would go on to take set two, 25-22, off a service error by Romano. After Jenness’ injury early in set three, the Mastodons would go on a 7-3 run to take set three, 25-18.
The Cardinals led the Mastodons in digs, 34-29, but tallied a .190 hitting percentage in the match. Walton knows each moment of the Cardinals’ remaining four matches going forward will have significant meaning, as the team continues to push for improvement in MIVA play.
“We’ve got to go on the road and make sure we’re focused on our game plan,” Walton said. “We’ve got to execute a good game plan, and I expect both Lindenwood and Quincy to play their best volleyball.”