Tuesday night marked Ball State’s fourth home match in the last six days. The 14th-ranked Cardinals captured decisive wins in the previous three matches, and they extended their string of success in the home stand finale against Trine (0-1) — defeating the Division III foe, 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-19).
Ball State’s win over Trine marked its sixth sweep of the season, and it was among its most dominating performances of the young campaign. The red and white never trailed the Thunder through the first and second sets, and they outscored the visitors by 20 points.
The Cardinals cruised to the victory by sending out its ninth unique starting lineup in as many matches. Sophomore outside hitter Ryan Bartz and senior opposite hitter Dyer Ball — who combined for just two starts ahead of Tuesday night — appeared in the opening rotation, and capitalized on their opportunities.
“I was really stoked about how Dyer and Ryan Bartz played,” Ball State head coach Donan Cruz said. “Aside from the statline, leadership from them was critical for our group tonight, and it gave us the momentum we needed.”
Bartz recorded a team-best 16 kills — the second time he’s led in terminations — and posted an efficient .882 hitting clip. The second-year star also added a team-leading three aces and three total blocks.
The 6-foot-5 hitter attributes his offseason work to earning a more pronounced role in 2024, after not appearing in a match last season.
“I was able to work really hard in the offseason, and I've probably worked the hardest I ever have,” Bartz said. “Being able to get in and being in one of the top spots on one of the teams in the country is really exciting.”
Ball tallied eight kills, a personal high for the 2024 season, and added five total blocks and a pair of aces. The product of Angola, Indiana, said he was especially pleased with his outing, given that Trine is located in his hometown.
Bartz and Ball led a Ball State offense which fueled the Cardinals’ decisive sweep. Ball State recorded 42 on their 78 attack attempts, which equated to a .385 hitting percentage.
Ball State’s lofty hitting numbers appear especially gaudy when compared to Trine’s 23 kills and .077 hitting percentage — a pair of statistics that are tied to the Cardinals’ defensive efforts.
The Cardinals eclipsed their previous season-high mark in blocks, which they set against UC San Diego on Jan. 11, as they rejected 11.5 attacks on Tuesday. Sophomore middle blocker Eyal Rawitz shined on the Ball State block, with his nine total blocks standing as the highest mark achieved by a Cardinal this season.
The Cardinals received strong backcourt contributions behind their dominating play on the block, as they logged 23 digs and committed just seven reception errors. With seven players contributing in the back row, Bartz led with nine digs.
Sophomore setter Griffin Satterfield added four digs and one total block to Ball State’s defensive effort, which accompanied his strong passing marks. In his fifth start at setter, the native of Camano Island, Washington, logged a career-best 37 assists.
Ball State’s victorious meeting with Trine was a late addition to the 2024 schedule, as the match was announced just a week prior to the contest. Cruz said he arranged the last-minute matchup to prepare the Cardinals’ for their demanding trip to Austin, Texas this weekend.
“We have a team that has nine new guys, and we had two matches canceled,” Cruz said. “So, we just thought this was the best fit for the timing and who we could get here.”
As a part of the First Point Collegiate Challenge, Ball State (7-2) will face No. 13 Southern California (4-0) at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, January 19, and No. 8 Stanford (4-0) at 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 20. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Preseason All-MIVA outside hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva will make his season debut this weekend.
“They are two good teams, so we just got to go in with the mentality that we can beat them,” Ball said. “We’re just super confident in ourselves that we can get it done.”
A win over either highly-ranked opponent would bolster Ball State’s at-large candidacy for the NCAA Tournament, but Cruz said he tries not to focus too closely on the weight of the matches.
“I wouldn't say it's something we've talked about out loud, but obviously those things are a reality, and two wins this weekend will help us out in that department,” Cruz said.
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