In the past week, Ball State Men’s Volleyball (6-1, 0-0 MIVA) has defeated no. 1 ranked Hawaii (7-2, 0-0 BWC) and split matches with no. 9 BYU (5-3, 0-0 MPSF).
Not a bad week according to head coach Donan Cruz.
“I can't say how proud we are of how the guys battled and [how we were] able to look to the bench and try some different lineups based on some situations we were faced with,” Cruz said. “I thought we played under extreme pressure and overcame adversity in terms of what we were forced to do. We did not allow the pressure situations to dictate how we played and our group focus.”
After falling to the Cougars in five sets just 24 hours earlier, the Cardinals came back to win in four sets thanks to a standout defensive performance.
Against BYU, Ball State recorded 18.0 blocks and 44 digs, besting the Cougars’ 11 blocks and 32 digs.
“I think a lot of our defense is about our positioning on the play,” Cruz said. “It’s really tough to make defensive plays at how quick the ball is moving, especially in attacking. They just do such a good job in the back row and then [graduate student middle blocker] Will Hippe coming into the game really came up with some huge blocks down the stretch.”
The win was never in cruise control though as Ball State and BYU split the first two sets before the Cardinals squeaked out a set three win deep into extra points.
At two different points in set four, the Cougars lead 15-9 and 19-14 as the match seemed destined to go to a fifth set. However, an aggressive 11-1 run helped the Cardinals end the match early. As Ball State came back and took the lead, Cruz said he could feel the team’s momentum.
“23-20 we felt pretty good,” Cruz said. “Caleb was back to serve [and] you could just tell… That's a moment where we practice that situation a lot. Close the game out. Even for me, you know, I'll start to loosen up a little bit as I know we're in a better place and when we had 24-20, I felt really good about how our group was moving, and [it] ended on a really nice play.
Senior outside attacker Kelab Jenness and sophomore opposite hitter Dyer Ball led the Ball State attack with a combined 36 kills, graduate student setter Quinn Isaacson had 50 assists and the aforementioned blocking brigade comprised of Jennes, Ball, senior middle blocker Felix Egharevba and graduate student middle blocker Will Hippe had totaled 18 kills for the Cardinals.
Ball State will look on as they enter the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) conference season, but Cruz said the team cannot make excuses.
“There’s just no excuses,” Cruz said. “We have a roster, and we have guys that are ready to play. I think the thing we learned the most is that availability changes. Availability is the best ability, and I think our guys really did a good job of stepping up… We're going to prepare and play no matter who it is on the court. Our guys just have to be ready to go and we're not going to make excuses on if we have our first guy or second guy or third guy, we’ve got to play volleyball.”
The Cardinals will stay on the road for their next match, starting MIVA play against defending champions Lewis University. The first serve is at 8 p.m.