Ball State Men’s Volleyball (8-1, 2-0 MIVA) was not the only program to start conference play with a victory this week as McKendree (4-4, 1-1 MIVA) toppled No. 12 Ohio State 3-1 Feb. 10.
In their home match against the Cardinals Feb. 12, the outcome was dissimilar as the Bearcats were handed their first loss of the season in four sets.
Ball State won the first two sets 25-20 and 25-21 respectively. The Cardinals held a one-point lead in the third set but were denied a sweep as McKendree claimed victory 25-22.
“Things kind of got a little shaky there in set three and I thought we battled back,” Ball State head coach Donan Cruz said. “...The message between sets three and four was simply that we knew we were better than that. We weren't capitalizing on opportunities that we had when they were making errors. This is a group that has been tested in a lot of different situations and I think it feels good from the sideline to be able to understand that our group is pretty experienced in playing from behind and being able to win in extended sets.”
The Cardinals finished the job in set four, as senior outside attacker Kaleb Jenness had a team-high 19 kills on a .417 hitting percentage, the highest percentage on the court for players with more than 10 kills.
“I think overall, his passing and presence and ability to score in big moments is really been something that the team relies on him for,” Cruz said.
Graduate student setter Quinn Isaacson tallied a team-high 40 assists while graduate student libero Colin Ensalaco led Ball State with eight digs.
Jenness and Isaacson stood out to Cruz for their performance, but also the amount of work they put in for the Cardinals.
“There's so much work to be done in those two positions as outside [hitter] and setter,” Cruz said. “We expect that they can manage a pretty heavy workload and I think their teammates trust them to do so. I thought tonight, and even against Lewis, we saw that again out of our group.”
The Cardinals return home for their next match against Purdue Fort Wayne (8-4, 2-0 MIVA) Feb. 17 in Worthen Arena. First set is 7 p.m.