A battle was waged by two ranked opponents. The battlefield: Worthen Arena.
Feb. 5th, 2022. Ball State Men’s Volleyball is in Provo, UT for the second day of a two-match series against Brigham Young University (BYU). The visiting Cardinals took down the hosting Cougars in four sets.
Feb. 2nd, 2023. Almost a full year later. No. 11 BYU (6-1, 0-0) is the visitor this time and played spoiler to the No. 8 Cardinals’ (4-3, 0-0) shot at remaining unbeaten at home after another four-set matchup.
“We could not capitalize on everything we planned to execute,” head coach Donan Cruz said. “That is the worst part…when you do not execute on your opportunities against a good team. Those plays at the end of the game do not characterize our team, but they count.”
Ball State’s offense was able to slip past the Cougars in the first set. Five more kills and a hitting percentage that was almost double that of BYU’s were positive signs for the Cardinals, who entered Thursday coming off of four-straight wins at home.
The errors started to catch up with Ball State in the second set. They had six more errors, a combination of attack and service, than the Cougars.
BYU converted on those errors from the Cardinals and were able to outnumber them in kills to take the second set.
There were some bright spots in Ball State’s offense. Second-year outside hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva brought the spark with a game-high 24 kills on a .476 hitting percentage, although Ndavazocheva preferred a win.
“When we lose it is hard for me to consider my stats,” Ndavazocheva said. “I tried to work on consistency with serves and blocking and I think I did well with that.”
Right behind Ndavazocheva, fifth-year outside attacker Kaleb Jenness had 19 kills and second-year middle blocker Vanis Buckholz tallied nine kills of his own.
Following set two, the Cardinals and Cougars went back-and-forth offensively in the last two sets to see who would come out on top.
Ultimately, tiny errors committed late by Ball State would cost them the match.
“The team played well, we just had too many mistakes on our side, so we just have to get rid of those,” Ndavazocheva said.
The Cardinals host BYU at Worthen Arena at 3 p.m. Saturday one more time, in an opportunity for redemption for Ball State.
“We’ll see a more polished version of what we saw tonight [on Saturday],” Cruz said. “BYU did some great things and that is what good teams will do to you. We just need to make sure we can handle the pressure and take advantage of the moment when it presents itself.”
Contact Corbin Hubert with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @corbin_hubert_