No. 1 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (21-3, 12-2 MIVA) took another step closer to its season goal April 16, defeating No. 8 seed Quincy (4-18, 0-14 MIVA) to advance in the Midwestrn Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Tournament Semifinals.
With a MIVA regular season title in hand, the Cardinals are looking to win the MIVA Tournament for the first time since 2002.
“It's just another stepping stone to our goal of winning the MIVA tournament [and] we have high hopes,” senior outside attacker Kaleb Jenness said. “... I thought we played pretty well overall. We had a few slumps, but just overall a good performance and we got a win in three which is always really good for our confidence.”
Ball State was in fine form against the Hawks, winning by scores of 25-17, 25-20 and 25-11 respectively. The Cardinals only fell behind by more than three points once in the match during the early stages of the second set.
“I think they played really well for those first 10 points [in set two] and I think we just kind of came out a little bit slow,” graduate student setter Quinn Isaacson said. “But the way you adjust really shows the confidence and the strategy that your team can pull out when you're kind of behind. So I was happy with how we adjusted and it worked out well.”
Named MIVA Player of the Year April 14, Jenness led Ball State with 16 kills against the Hawks while Isaacson dished out a team-high 30 assists. With Jenness standing behind him, Isaacson joked that he does “a lot of the work” for Jenness before complimenting his longtime teammate on the award and their relationship.
“Now playing [in] my fourth year with him, setting him, it gets easier and easier," Isaacson said. "We live together and we have a good relationship so it makes it a lot more comfortable for us to work together.”
On the defensive side of the court, the Cardinals combined for 25 digs and senior middle blocker Felix Egharevba led all players with six total blocks.
While Jenness earned All-MIVA first team honors along with Player of the Year, Isaacson was also named to the first team and Egharevba was named to the second team. In addition, head coach Donan Cruz was named MIVA Coach of the Year in his first year with the program.
“That's just a reflection of our team and our staff and what everybody's doing,” Cruz said. "I told the guys when those awards came out on Thursday, 'when you're winning, those awards sort of kind of gravitate your way and it's just a toss up'... Obviously, a great honor because it's the coaches that vote on that... It is a humbling honor, but [I] just try not to really think about it too much."
At the conclusion of the match, the Cardinals' semifinal opponent was unknown between Lewis (16-11, 7-7 MIVA) and Ohio State (13-13, 7-7 MIVA). Cruz said Ball State was ready to play whoever showed up to the semifinals.
“I think at this point when you get to the top four teams in the MIVA, you’ve just got to expect you're going to play good volleyball,” Cruz said. “So for us, it’s sort of ‘Hey, whoever shows up to Muncie, we're gonna play them,’ and we try to make that kind of the mentality with the group because we just don't control in that scenario who we play and you know, we’ll be prepared for both opponents.”
Later in the evening, it was revealed that Ball State will face Lewis University in the semifinals April 20 in Worthen Arena.