Four games into his Ball State career, head coach Donan Cruz is already making headlines.
Ball State Men’s Volleyball (4-0, 0-0 MIVA) upset No. 1 Hawai'i (3-1, 0-0 BWC) in three sets by scores of 25-20, 25-18 and 25-19 Jan. 29.
The Cardinals hit .410 off 78 attacks against the Rainbow Warriors, spearheaded by senior outside attacker Kaleb Jenness with 19 kills. Jenness said Ball State felt energized for its opportunity to defeat Hawaii.
“We're ecstatic to play them and even more ecstatic to have beaten them,” Jenness said. “They're [a] really good team. They're missing a few pieces, but they were still a really great team and we played out of our mind.”
Hawaii was missing four starters against Ball State as setter Jakob Thelle, middle blocker Guilherme Voss, outside hitter Chaz Galloway and outside hitter Filip Humler were out due to injury or health and safety protocols.
“I think we just kind of kept the same game plan,” senior outside attacker Nick Martinski said. “We didn't really try to change too much [of] what we did and we just worried about what was on our side.”
Cruz said that the Rainbow Warrior’s absentees highlighted a problem most programs have dealt with in the past two years with COVID-19 and injuries.
“In the last two seasons collegiately, you’ve got to be prepared that the scenarios of having a full roster can change on a moment's notice,” Cruz said. “The boys [were] well aware that we're under the same conditions… those are things we prepare and try to train our guys in that mindset.”
The win marked four wins in four games for Cruz in his first season with Ball State, with a win over the defending national champions emphasizing the Cardinal's work.
“I know the win means a lot to the program [and] I'm just really proud for the guys,” Cruz said. “They put so much work into what they're doing leading up to this week and not trying to put too much emphasis on it. We knew we were gonna come in and do the work we needed to do and not really worry about what Hawaii was doing to a certain extent and it showed in this evening.”
Martinski led the Cardinals with 12 digs and paired with senior middle blocker Felix Egharevba and graduate student opposite hitter Angelos Mandilaris to contribute a team-high three blocks each. Graduate student setter Quinn Isaacson assisted 40 attacks.
Ball State returns to the floor Jan. 31 in a rematch against Hawaii. First serve is 7 p.m.