“They’re just a very good team. They do a lot of things well.”
That’s what Ball State Men’s Volleyball (3-1, 0-0 MIVA) head coach Joel Walton had to say about No. 4 UC Santa Barbara (4-0, 0-0 Big West), who swept the Cardinals Saturday in the second contest of Ball State’s six-match road trip.
Coming off a five-set comeback win Friday, the Cardinals struggled to generate consistency in Saturday’s matchup. The Gauchos led the Cardinals in nearly every statistical category except for total attacks. Ball State also suffered 18 attack errors through all three sets.
After tying his career-high in kills with 22 Friday, sophomore outside attacker Kaleb Jenness had a tough time finding the scoresheet Saturday with only three kills and a -.062 hitting percentage in the loss.
“When you’re playing from behind,” Walton said, “And when bad plays are compounding, that’s just where we were tonight. We were really out of sync, struggling to find a rhythm. Santa Barbara did a really nice job from start to finish.
Although senior outside attacker Matt Szews also finished the match with a -.062 hitting percentage, the contest still held great significance for his Ball State career. With one service ace on the night, Szews became Ball State’s all-time leader in service aces with 112.
“That was kind of an important note tonight,” Walton said. “He only needed one, and he got it.”
The Cardinals couldn’t catch a break in set one, as the team never held a lead and faced a deficit of as many as nine points to begin the match. UC Santa Barbara took the first, 25-19. However, with their 19th and final point of the set came Szews’ all-time leading service ace.
Set two followed a similar rhythm to the first. The Gauchos went on a 9-4 run to end the set, resulting in a 25-16 victory for UC Santa Barbara.
Unable to hold a lead in the first two sets, Ball State began set three on a high note before the Gauchos tied the set at eight apiece. Ultimately, UC Santa Barbara extended its momentum from the first two sets to take the set, 25-13, and the match.
Walton said traveling out west and playing a tough five-set battle Friday had some impact in the Cardinals’ loss, but the Gauchos were ultimately the better team in Saturday’s contest.
“They’re hard to stop offensively,” Walton said. “We passed so poorly tonight that we couldn’t get our offense on track. We couldn’t come anywhere close to matching what they were doing. Things got lopsided very quickly.”
Continuing its road slate, Ball State will be back in action Thursday at George Mason. First serve is at 7 p.m.