After back-to-back sweeps of Lindenwood and Quincy, No. 15 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (10-10, 3-4 MIVA) escaped the cold weather and traveled to Honolulu March 7-9 for the Outrigger Tournament.
The Cardinals struggled in the first two matches of the tournament, falling 3-0 to No. 6 Pepperdine (13-5, 4-2 MPSF) and No. 2 Hawaii (15-0, 2-0 BWC). However, junior outside attacker Matt Szews’ season-high 20 kills propelled the Cardinals to a 3-0 sweep over King (10-8, 7-2 Conference Carolinas) on March 9.
Head coach Joel Walton said he had mixed feelings about his team’s results.
“I was pretty disappointed with the way we played Pepperdine; [the Waves] controlled that match,” Walton said. “Hawaii is a very good team; they’re undefeated, but I thought we competed well. [Saturday’s] win wasn’t pretty, but we did it in three and we played some guys off the bench.”
Szews, who led the Cardinals with 43 kills in the tournament, was named to the Outrigger All-Tournament Team. Sophomore setter Quinn Isaacson ended the tournament with 88 assists, including 39 in Saturday’s win. Isaacson continues to fill the void at setter, as junior setter Jake Romano remains out indefinitely.
“Szews played very well, especially [Saturday],” Walton said. “I thought [senior outside hitter] David Siebum also played well against Hawaii.”
A primary focus for the Cardinals this season has been proper serving. Walton said this hurt the team in their losses to Pepperdine and Hawaii, in addition to a lack of significant middle offense.
“We’ve got to get more serving pressure,” Walton said. “The teams we played against did a better job with that. We also need to find more middle offense, just so we can attack from different areas on the court.”
The Cardinals could not catch a break in Thursday’s 3-0 loss to Pepperdine. Sophomore outside attacker Ben Chinnici’s season-high 13 kills were not enough to make up for the team’s 17 errors.
Friday’s match against the Rainbow Warriors also presented a tough challenge for the Cardinals. Junior opposite Rado Parapunov was a driving force for Hawaii, tallying 19 kills and a .571 hitting percentage in the sweep.
The Rainbow Warriors have not dropped a set this season. Hawaii is one of two undefeated teams, along with Long Beach State.
Despite Thursday's and Friday’s struggles, the Cardinals ended the tournament on a high note with Saturday’s victory over King. The Cardinals took set one, 25-22, before taking their momentum into set two with a 25-19 win.
The Cardinals broke a 24-24 tie in the third set with a kill from Szews and a Tornado error to take the match in extra points, 3-0.
“Playing against highly ranked teams gave us the chance to look at areas we’re good with and areas we need to work on,” Walton said.