Saturday night marked the end of an era for Ball State Men’s Volleyball. Ending a 31-year career, Joel Walton spent his final few hours as head coach of the Cardinals.
Heading into Ball State’s Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Semifinal matchup against No. 1 Lewis (19-2, 12-2 MIVA), Walton said he felt his team did everything it could to put themselves in a position to upset the Flyers.
However, all that preparation throughout the week would lie in vain, as the Flyers swept the Cardinals (12-8, 8-5 MIVA) for the third time this season. Walton said he was feeling a variety of emotions immediately after the match, from disappointment and bittersweetness to terror about not having his next job lined up.
Walton said the bittersweetness came from stepping away from coaching to spend more time with his family while missing the time he spends with players.
“I’m not disappointed in our team,” Walton said, “I’m disappointed in myself for not being able to get our guys to a place where we won tonight.”
Lewis came into last night firing on all cylinders, finishing with hitting percentages of .500, .480 and .320 in each set, respectively. Errors also hurt the Cardinals, as they racked up 39 as opposed to the Flyers’ 30.
“If you look at the serving line, [Lewis had] seven aces on only 12 misses,” Walton said. “That put a lot of pressure on our team from the serving line, and that kept us from being as efficient as they were on offense.”
Graduate student outside attacker Blake Reardon led the Cardinals with 13 kills while junior and sophomore outside attackers Kaleb Jenness and Bryce Behrendt finished with 10 and eight, respectively. Senior setter Quinn Isaacson added 30 assists to his season total while Reardon led Ball State with eight digs.
Despite the premature ending to the Cardinals’ end goals, Walton said, there were still special moments he will remember from this season.
“I think the fact that we defeated McKendree in our second match against them and Quincy upsetting Ohio State to give us one more match in Worthen Arena was a really special moment,” Walton said. “And then, the way the guys played in the MIVA Quarterfinals last week against Ohio State to give me one more home win was also really special.”
Although he will no longer be at the helm, Walton said there is a bright future for the program. He was thankful for all the faces who have helped him over the years.
“The incoming staff are going to have a great group to work with,” Walton said. “I’m grateful for the opportunities that the Ball State men’s volleyball program has given to my life.”