Consistency in defense, serving propel Ball State Men's Volleyball to sweep over Saint Francis

<p>Sophomore Matt Szews serves the ball at the beginning of the second period during the game against on Jan. 19. The Cardinals won 3-2. <strong>Carlee Ellison, DN</strong></p>

Sophomore Matt Szews serves the ball at the beginning of the second period during the game against on Jan. 19. The Cardinals won 3-2. Carlee Ellison, DN

After three matches at the Outrigger Tournament in Honolulu, No. 15 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (11-10, 3-4 MIVA) returned Worthen Arena Friday in successful form. The Cardinals limited Saint Francis (11-9, 5-2 EIVA) to a .011 hitting percentage to sweep the Red Flash, 3-0.

The match was the Cardinals’ third consecutive sweep at Worthen Arena after victories over Lindenwood and Quincy on March 1 and 2. 

“We were firing on all cylinders tonight, which kept Saint Francis out of the match,” head coach Joel Walton said.

Although the Cardinals generated a .311 hitting percentage, Walton said the team’s defense tremendously stood out in the victory. The Cardinals would finish with 34 digs, with nine coming from senior outside hitter David Siebum.

The Cardinals also outblocked the Red Flash, 7.0 to 3.0

“Some of our frustration in recent weeks has been from balls hitting other players on the court and then shanking into the stands,” Walton said. “Tonight, we did a better job at getting some of those balls up and staying in rallies. Those can be difference makers not only for gaining the point in the moment, but also for the pressure that carries over to the other team.”

Walton said the Cardinals have continuously been working on proper serving, which the team struggled with in Hawaii. Not only was Walton pleased with his team’s serving in the victory, but he said a specific game plan paid off. 

“We hit [Michael] Fisher 29 times, and he’s [Saint Francis’] top offensive option” Walton said. “We wanted to hit at No. 7 and make him pass. Our guys heard that in the game plan, and that was a really big part of what happened tonight.”

Fisher led the Red Flash offense with nine kills. The Cardinals took set one, 25-17, which saw the team outhit Saint Francis .364 to .000. 

A mixture of quality offense and defense would boost the Cardinals to take set two, 25-18. The second set saw sophomore outside hitter Zach Nielsen make his season debut. Junior middle attacker Lemuel Turner’s .800 hitting percentage would lead the Cardinals to take the third set, 25-17, and win the match.

“We kind of sat down after our trip to Hawaii to talk about how we wanted to go into this weekend,” junior outside attacker Matt Szews said. “We set some good goals and I thought we accomplished them tonight.”

Szews said he believed tonight’s win was a true team effort, capitalized by the Cardinals’ serving ability and overall consistency. 

“We made a few errors, but it helped a lot that we were able to dig well and win rallies,” Szews said. “I thought Quinn [Isaacson] did a good job of setting. When we pass well, it allows him to set where we want to set.

The Cardinals are back in action Saturday for Senior Night against Penn State at 7 p.m.

Contact Connor Smith with any comments at or on Twitter @cnsmithbsu


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