All-around effort leads Ball State in sweep of Saint Francis

Ball State's mens volleyball team competed against McKendree April 6 in John E. Worthen Arena. The Cardinals won 3-0. 

It was a road trip with mixed results for Ball State Men’s Volleyball (5-3, 0-0 MIVA). However, the Cardinals ended their six-match journey away from Worthen Arena on a high note Saturday with a 3-0 win over Saint Francis (2-5, 0-0 EIVA).

Coming off an upset win Friday over No. 7 Penn State, head coach Joel Walton said he had little doubt the Cardinals would regress in Saturday’s match against the Red Flash. 

“We just talked about being consistent,” Walton said, “Showing that we can put two consistent performances back-to-back. That was our goal tonight.”

A forceful offense was a major focal point in the Cardinals’ success. All players with at least three kills recorded hitting percentages of .300 or greater. Sophomore outside attacker Kaleb Jenness led Ball State in kills with 12 on the night.

Junior outside attacker Ben Chinnici also played a major role in the Cardinals’ victory. Ball State’s lone Pennsylvania native finished with a .583 hitting percentage and eight kills Saturday. Combined with Friday’s win at Penn State, he finished with 14 total through his team’s two-match swing in his home state.

In addition to a balanced offense, Ball State also saw plenty of consistency on defense. Senior libero Nick LaVanchy led the Cardinals in digs with nine. The Cardinals outblocked the Red Flash 5.0-2.0.

“Our guys played really tenacious defense,” Walton said. “It shows in the digging numbers, but the fact we held them to a .211 hitting percentage — we weren’t stuffing a lot of blocks, but we touched a lot of balls with our block. We were able to stay in rallies.” 

Finishing their road trip at 3-3, Walton said he is pleased to see continuous improvement from the Cardinals. Coming off a three-match losing skid, Ball State’s sweeps over the Nittany Lions and Red Flash marked the first time the team has swept opponents back-to-back on the road since April 2016.

“We knew this was going to be a hard stretch,” Walton said. “I feel like we’re playing our best volleyball at the end of this road trip instead of fatiguing and wearing down. I’m proud of the guys for doing that. We want to keep approaching each test that comes our way with a competitive and focused mentality.”

The Cardinals hit .519 and outdug the Red Flash 11-6 to take set one 25-18. Set two produced the exact same result, as the Cardinals took the second set after seven consecutive kills. 

Ultimately, set three followed a very similar rhythm to the second. Although the Red Flash ended the third on an 11-9 run, Ball State took the third off an attack error to secure its second win in as many nights.

The Cardinals were once again led at setter by junior Quinn Isaacson. For the second consecutive match, Isaacson finished with a perfect hitting percentage in addition to 36 assists. His seven digs were also second on the team behind LaVanchy.

Walton said he is excited to return to Worthen Arena, but the road trip gave him great benefits in knowing his team better as well as areas of improvement going forward.

“We still have some young players who we’re giving some opportunities to and trying to mix into the lineup,” Walton said. “I’m more familiar with our team coming out of this, and I’m pleased with the job that the guys did supporting together.”

Ball State will return to action Thursday vs. Urbana, beginning a four-match homestand. First serve is 7 p.m.

Contact Connor Smith with comments at cnsmith@bsu.edu or on Twitter @cnsmithbsu.

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