After Saturday night’s thrilling upset with Ball State Men's Volleyball (5-0, 0-0 MIVA) beating Hawaii (3-2, 0-0 BWC), the Cardinals hopped five places in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll (AVCA) to 10th while Hawaii’s grasp on the No. 1 spot remained firm despite the loss.
Both teams did not need to wait long for the rematch though as the Rainbow Warriors returned to Worthen Arena just three days later Jan. 31.
Missing four players in the first match of the doubleheader, Hawaii returned one player, Filip Humler, in their return matchup.
The Cardinals took set one convincingly 25-18 but lost a close encounter in set two to leave the match tied 1-1. It took extra points in set three, but graduate student setter Quinn Isaacson put the finishing touches on a 27-25 set win to give the Cardinals the lead in the match again. Going back and forth with Hawaii, head coach Donan Cruz said Ball State needed to stay calm.
“Not trying to do too much,” Cruz said. “There were moments in set four where you could tell we're trying [too] hard and it was kind of messing up with the mojo.”
Following a 25-22 loss in set four, the Cardinals went into an all-or-nothing set five.
“And then set five was just trying to be a little bit more even keel,” Cruz said. “You're tired, you’ve got to breathe, a couple of guys kind of hyperventilating out there, but they managed. That was good.”
Knowing the Rainbow Warriors would come into the second match looking for a fight, freshman middle blocker Vanis Buckholz said the Cardinals stayed strong throughout.
“We knew it was going to happen,” Buckholz said. “We knew they were gonna fire back from [saturday] night’s game. We knew that was gonna happen but we did it.”
It was a chart-topping night for the Cardinals, who scored 111 points on 76 kills – 68 of which came from the trio of graduate student outside hitter Angelos Mandilaris, senior outside attacker Kaleb Jenness and Buckholz.
“I'm very excited. I'm really glad that we showed up both days,” Mandilaris said. “Even the second day when they showed us why they're the number one team, we stepped up [and] we showed them who's the boss here.”
In the Ball State backcourt, Isaacson, Mandilaris and senior outside attacker Nick Martinski combined for 35 digs and Isaacson had a season-high 65 assists.
After dethroning the defending national champions twice in three days, Buckholz said the Cardinals must remain confident throughout the rest of the season.
“Everyone has got it,” Buckholz said. “Everyone has to play their role. Like I said we’re going to do what we got to do. Everyone has to come in with confidence [and be confident] in everything you do.”
Ball State will go on the road for the first time this season in their next match, facing Birgminham Young University in Provo, UT at 9 p.m. Feb. 4.