LOS ANGELES, Calif. – After a five-set thriller at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, Ball State Men's Volleyball's (23-4, 12-2 MIVA) 2022 season came to an end at the hands of the University of Hawai'i (26-5, 7-3 BWC).
“Obviously, a little bummed about that loss but for our path and our journey this season, to be able to fight the defending champions the way we did, in five, I thought we had some good plays there," head coach Donan Cruz said. "They just made a few more than we did. As we think about the growth and the year, to be able to get this point, simply what we spoke about in that last huddle was, ‘There’s really nothing to hang our heads on.’ Although this stings at this moment, as a group, moving forward, these are the things that really get us to that championship mindset."
The Cardinals looked slow to start the first set (28-26) and fell behind before coming back to push the set to extra points before surrendering victory to the Rainbow Warriors.
"Our first sets [all season], if you look at across the board, we've always been tight," graduate student setter Quinn Isaacson said. "Just to getting going is just one thing we've had to start to figure out and on top of that we haven't played since Saturday– so five days before; it's been a while. They had a match before. I knew it was going to be a little bit of adjustment but I was just really proud of how we brought that back within two points had a chance to take that set. But you know, they came out firing and I expected them to come back."
Ball State stayed hot in the second set, taking a commanding lead and not letting up, winning 25-19. The momentum continued into set three (25-20) as Hawai'i put up little resistance while falling 2-1 behind in the match.
"Like I said earlier in the week, that’s as veteran a group of athletes as you can have in college athletics," Hawai'i head coach Charlie Wade said. "And they played at a really high level. They were serving unbelievably well through, like, three sets. I think at one point they had three errors. They were at like 95-96% and really putting some pressure on us and I, more than most, respect that and appreciate that, because that’s something that we pride ourselves on. They were really playing at a high level and serving the ball tough. Congrats to Ball State. They had a great year. And then, I’m proud of our guys, just to gut it out. It wasn’t pretty. I thought, the second set, we hit some balls out, kind of uncharacteristically. But guys stayed confident and our defense got a little better, our serve-receive tightened up and able to get the win.”
After dropping set four 25-20, the Cardinals were officially knocked out of the NCAA Tournament with a 15-11 loss in the fifth and final set.
""I think coordinating around the blocking defense in the transition- they scored really well on this situation in the fourth and fifth set, as well as their second," Isaacson said. "It was really aggressive and they got some balls. We just did a poor job handling in the fourth and fifth set compared to the first three. So they played to their advantage."
Jenness lead Ball State with 18 kills and 11 digs while Isaacson had a team-high 40 assists and senior middle blocker Felix Egharevba had a court-high nine blocks.
Despite the loss to sour the season's end, the Caridnals hold this season in high regard and hope to build off it in the next season.
"Just continue to build on this," Cruz said. "One of the things immediately following the game is if this is going to be the starting point for my tenure at Ball State, this is a good place to be. I’ve been in this position before as a professional and I understand that you have to kind of work yourself into having a level of success. I thought we had a group that really embraced the culture and the mindset that we were trying to build. To be able to get that kind of growth is pretty good. Winning is a mentality. It’s a habit. Moments like this are what motivate me to do my job, improve, continue to build our team and our guys. Regardless of the outcome today, I just thought that this was a huge growing point for us.”
The Rainbow Warriors advance to play Long Beach State (21-5, 8-2 BWC) in the National Championship May 7 at 8 p.m. EST while Ball State will return to the court in the 2023 season.