In what head coach Joel Walton described as an “up-and-down” match, Ball State Men’s Volleyball (15-13, 6-7 MIVA) edged McKendree (11-12, 6-7 MIVA), 3-2, in a five-set battle Thursday.
“We got out to a great start in game one, and then we really struggled,” head coach Joel Walton said. “We had some chances in game three that we couldn’t put away, but we were able to come back and win game four. We did some really good things in game five to walk away with the W.”
With Thursday’s win, the Cardinals tied their season series with the Bearcats after suffering a 3-0 sweep at Worthen Arena on Feb. 7. While Ball State hit just .191 in the win, the Cardinals led in digs 54-42, individually led by junior outside attacker Blake Reordan
A .429 hitting percentage in set one was imperative for Ball State. The Cardinals took the first in dominating fashion, 25-12, off a service ace from Szews.
Szews finished with 19 kills in the match, two short of his season-high of 21.
However, the Bearcats showed just how unpredictable MIVA play can be in set two. The Cardinals suffered nine attack errors in set two, compared to only one in the first. McKendree would take set two, 25-19, to tie the match.
The Cardinals kept play tight in set three; however, an attack error from Reordan propelled the Bearcats in the third, 25-23.
“[McKendree] changed their personnel in sets two and three,” Walton said. “We saw two different left sides start the match than they did finish the match. [McKendree’s] coach knew she had played those two left sides against us earlier in the year, and she wanted to see if it would work.”
The Cardinals faced a 12-7 deficit in the fourth, forcing a timeout. However, the consistency of sophomore setter Quinn Isaacson led Ball State on a five-point run to tie the set, 12-12.
Walton said Isaacson’s performance in set four was the turning point of the match. Isaacson led the team in both with 16 digs and 43 assists.
“Instead of looking at a five-point deficit and not being able to reverse it, Quinn reversed it right away to get us to a better position,” Walton said. “It was more about us making some plays late and getting some breaks to go our way
McKendree held multiple one and two point leads later in the set, but a kill from Reordan would propel the Cardinals to tie the match, 28-26, in extra points.
“[McKendree] made some critical errors at critical times, and we were able to capitalize on them,” Walton said.
While junior setter Jake Romano has gradually seen more playing time since suffering a thumb injury in early February, Walton said he remains impressed with Isaacson’s determination and progress. Assistant coach Jim Palilonis has continuously been working alongside Isaacson all season to hone his skills both offensively and defensively, Walton added.
“I think they have a very good working relationship right now,” Walton said. ”Jim [Palilonis] seems to be very pleased with Quinn as a leader on the court.”
The Cardinals end the regular season April 6 at Ohio State.