Fewer than two weeks ago, Ball State (8-4, 5-3 MIVA) fell to Ohio State (5-7, 4-4 MIVA) in a five-set match that ended the Cardinals' seven-match win streak and started what would become a three-match loss streak.
There hadn't been a regular season sweep between the two rivals since 2017, and the Cardinals made sure to keep it that way in what was a historic Thursday night for senior setter Quinn Isaacson — who finished three assists shy of his season high — propelling the Cardinals over the Buckeyes 3-2.
Isaacson contributed in just about every statistical category. In addition to recording 51 assists, he led Ball State with 10 digs and added three kills. Perhaps the most historic statistic of the night for Isaacson was his five aces, tying the program record for third all time in a five-set match with Ethan Pheister, 2010 Ball State graduate, who last set the mark twice in 2009.
“I felt like the first time we played Ohio State, Quinn was just a little bit off,” head coach Joel Walton said. "There were some balls that were hit to him that he normally digs that he didn’t hit that first time around, but his overall game tonight was on point and something that we needed to come away with the victory.”
The Cardinals had to come back from losing the first set and then hang on after being up 2-1 before the Buckeyes forced a fifth set.
“I thought our team was not necessarily dialed in, but we really checked in,” Walton said. “Ohio State forced us to play really well to come out with a win, but our guys put in the effort that it took to earn the victory in five games.”
Neither team could pull away for long in the first set. Despite the Cardinals recording a nightly high 17 kills, the Buckeyes won 25-23 to go up 1-0.
However, the Cardinals refused to let the first set affect them. They went on to win sets two and three by scores of 25-21 and 25-18, respectively, to take the 2-1 lead. The third set saw the Cardinals hit .435, the highest of the night from either team.
Ohio State won the fourth set 25-23, where the Buckeyes hit their nightly high of 16 kills. Ball State committed six errors.
In the fifth set, Ball State led most of the way, but Ohio State hung on until the end. The Buckeyes cut a four-point lead down to one before the Cardinals finished them off 15-13 to take the victory.
“Two weeks ago, especially in the fifth game, it seemed there were three kind of fluke plays that went Ohio State’s way,” Walton said. “Tonight, we won some challenges on balls that were called out that they reversed, and it just seemed like a few more of the questionable calls went our way tonight. Sometimes, that's all it takes.”
Ball State had an evenly balanced attack throughout the night, led by junior outside attacker Kaleb Jenness (21 kills, eight digs, three blocks) and graduate student outside attacker Blake Reardon (16 kills, three digs, one ace). With six matches left in the season before the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament, Walton said Thursday night’s win against the Buckeyes was exactly what the Cardinals needed.
“Four consecutive losses would have really put our team in a pretty dire situation,” Walton said. “Getting a win on the road against an Ohio State team — it's a good way to get things flowing in the right direction. I think we have the ability to play and beat anybody in our conference.”
The Cardinals have a week off before heading to Quincy (4-6, 1-6 MIVA) for two matches March 19-20. First serve is set for 8 p.m. both nights.