Cardinals drop first match of weekend series with BYU

The Ball State men's volleyball team huddles up after falling to Ohio State in MIVA Tournament Finals April 22 at Worthen Arena. Ball State lost to Ohio State 3-1. Amber Pietz, DN
The Ball State men's volleyball team huddles up after falling to Ohio State in MIVA Tournament Finals April 22 at Worthen Arena. Ball State lost to Ohio State 3-1. Amber Pietz, DN

After cruising to three sweeps in a string of home matches to open the 2024 campaign, Ball State was unable to carry over its momentum into its first road test of the season. The No. 11 Cardinals fell (3-0; 25-19, 25-21, 25-20) Friday night to No. 9 Brigham Young (BYU), inside the Cougars’ Smith Fieldhouse.

The red and white were plagued by unforced errors for the entirety of the match, which made manufacturing scoring runs difficult for the Cardinals. Head coach Donan Cruz highlighted the importance of playing efficiently against nationally-ranked opponents.

“When you face big opponents, they force you to have to be really efficient and clean on how you play the game, and we just struggled to get in a rhythm,” Cruz said.

Ball State’s struggles often started before entering into a rally as the Cardinals’ fell into a considerable disadvantage at the service line. The red and white logged 16 service errors — without recording an ace — while BYU registered four aces, with three fewer errors.

“We just made a little too many errors and didn't take advantage of opportunities when we needed to,” Cruz said.

Cruz sent out the fourth unique starting rotation of the young season, which featured junior middle blocker Vanis Buckholz for the first time this season. The accomplished returner — who logged 1.096 blocks per set last season — enjoyed a fine season debut, logging four kills at a .571 clip and recording two total blocks.

Though Buckholz saw his first action of the season, junior outside hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva did not appear in the Cardinals’ rotation for the fourth consecutive match. The 6’6” hitter was Ball State’s lone honoree on the preseason All-Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Conference (MIVA) team, and his absence was especially missed considering his success against BYU last season.

Ndavazocheva recorded 43 kills in the Cardinals’ two matches against the Cougars in 2023, and was key in the red and white’s victory over the then 11th-ranked BYU squad. Cruz said that the Zimbabwe national was unable to play due to an unspecified injury, adding that the coaching staff is still waiting for a time frame on his return.

Though Cruz and his staff are unsure of when Ndavazocheva will return, he said that he will certainly not play tomorrow night against BYU.

Although Ball State’s offense operated without a key hitter, the Cardinals managed to rip 31 kills at a .279 clip. The red and white’s attackers steadily gained momentum throughout the match, posting a combined .375 hitting percentage in sets two and three, after logging a .040 mark in the first.

Sophomore outside hitter Patrick Rogers paced the Ball State offense in just his third start donning the red and white. The 6’7” native of Rutherford, New Jersey, produced 16 kills at an efficient .714 clip, and he added a team-best three total blocks.

“He did what we expected, but that's a stellar performance,” Cruz said. “In his position, to attack at that clip is not a common thing.”

Buckholz and senior outside hitter Trevor Phillips tied for the second-most kills, each slamming four.

For the first time this season, a pair of setters operated the Cardinals’ offense. Sophomore Griffin Satterfield earned the starting nod, but he was later relieved by freshman Peter Zurawski. Cruz said that misconnections with hitters in the opening set led to his decision to insert Zurawski.

“Peter came in and did a great job,” Cruz said. “We had them where we needed to in order to try to make a run at that third set.”

Cruz gave no definitive word on the status of the setter position, but said that Satterfield will likely not start tomorrow.

Ball State’s defense recorded just 18 digs in the loss, which is lower than any of its totals last season. Rogers paced the Cardinals with five digs, followed by senior opposite Dyer Ball and freshman outside hitter Braydon Savistski-Lynde, who each logged three.

Over 3,200 fans took in the opening weekend match inside Smith Fieldhouse, which Cruz described as a difficult atmosphere for his players to perform in.

“This place is not an easy place to play,” Cruz said. “It's not an easy place to serve the ball, just based on where we're at geographically.”

The Cardinals (3-1) will return to the Cougars’ home court at 9 p.m. tomorrow for the second half of the season series against BYU (1-0), giving the red and white an opportunity to avenge their sweep. Cruz was encouraged by Ball State’s momentum late in the match and hopes to extend it into tomorrow.

“We’ve got to reduce service errors,” Cruz said. “If we do that, then we'll have a much better ballgame.”

Contact Adam Altobella with comments on X @AltobellaAdam or via email at


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