Junior outside attacker Matt Szews’ 14 kills was not enough for No. 15 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (12-11, 3-5 MIVA) against No. 10 Loyola-Chicago (14-7, 7-2 MIVA) Thursday. A .181 hitting percentage and 24 attack errors hurt the Cardinals, falling 3-0 to the Ramblers.
Head coach Joel Walton was disappointed with the Cardinals’ loss. The Ramblers swept the season series between the two teams Thursday, previously defeating the Cardinals 3-1 on Feb. 16.
“We weren’t as good defensively as we needed to be,” Walton said, “Especially when we were taking [Loyola] out of system, they were able to work their way through that and still win a lot of rallies. Offensively, we were just really inconsistent all night long.”
While the Cardinals have seen plenty of success this season, the team has continuously struggled against MIVA opponents. With six consecutive conference matches to end the season, Walton said his team needs to improve its confidence and mindset, both on and off the court.
“It was maybe as much the way that [Loyola] played that forced us into the space they were operating in,” Walton said. “We weren’t playing very confidently. The more we made errors, the harder it became for us to relax and compete.”
Defensively, the Ramblers out-blocked the Cardinals 14.5 to 3.0. Senior opposite hitter Dane Leclair led the Ramblers offense with 10 kills and a .375 hitting percentage.
Senior middle attacker Parker Swartz said his team simply lacked energy and failed to capitalize on major opportunities.
“We didn’t really step up to the challenge in our moments,” Swartz said. “I think we could’ve attacked better; we’re a great attacking team when we’re on point and we just made a couple too many errors. [Loyola] really tested our defense.”
The Ramblers took set one, 25-19, off a kill from senior outside hitter Will Tischler. The set saw the Cardinals face a .511 to .186 deficit in hitting percentage.
The Cardinals would begin set two up 12-8. However, dominant blocking and a consistent offense from the Ramblers would propel them in the second, 25-22.
“We continually shot ourselves in the foot with balls that were blocked and balls out-of-bounds,” Walton said. “Our hitting percentage was a part of [Loyola’s] block doing a nice job, but also our guys not connecting or hitting right shots at the right moments.”
Set three saw the Ramblers earn a 25-21 win to sweep the match. The Ramblers out-blocked the Cardinals 6-0 in the final set.
The Cardinals conclude their home portion of the 2019 regular season Saturday against No. 7 Lewis, a team currently riding an eleven-match win streak. As the Cardinals enjoyed a 9-5 record at Worthen Arena this season, Swartz said every moment in Saturday's match will be crucial.
“We’re going to bring a lot more energy,” Swartz said. “Saturday’s our last home match, which will give our crowd something to cheer about and something special for our seniors to go out strong.”