Ball State swept by BYU for second-straight match

<p>Ball State men's volleyball Head Coach Donan Cruz speaks to the team from the bench area against Sacred Heart University on Jan. 28, 2023 at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals won against the Pioneers 3-0. Mya Cataline, DN</p>

Ball State men's volleyball Head Coach Donan Cruz speaks to the team from the bench area against Sacred Heart University on Jan. 28, 2023 at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals won against the Pioneers 3-0. Mya Cataline, DN

Since head coach Donan Cruz arrived at Ball State in 2022, the Cardinals have matched up against Brigham Young (BYU) in a pair of matches in each of his seasons at the helm. The red and white split their two-match slates against the Cougars in 2022 and 2023, but they were unable to replicate that pattern this season.

No. 11 Ball State fell (3-0; 25-19, 25-17, 25-16) to No. 9 BYU (2-0) on Saturday night in the second match of the weekend series in Provo, Utah.

“We just didn't capitalize on opportunities; that's what it boils down to,” Cruz said. “And in set three, they just kind of went away with the game, and we just couldn't recover.”

After recording 16 service errors in Friday night’s loss, Ball State was again hindered by self-inflicted setbacks in match two against BYU. The red and white notched 14 service errors and six reception errors, which contributed to the Cougars' momentum in their home arena — packed with 1,800 fans.

“We thought we maybe served 50% of what our potential is, and we’ve got to be better there,” Cruz said.

The Cardinals featured a unique starting rotation in each of the four matches prior to Saturday night, and they extended their streak in the second matchup with BYU. Ball State started four players who did not see the starting lineup in the first match against the Cougars.

The addition of freshman setter Lucas Machado to the opening lineup headlined the changes to the starting rotation, as the Brazilian had not appeared in the red and white’s first four matches to start the season.

In his collegiate debut, Machado recorded 26 assists, dumped off two kills and logged two total blocks. Cruz said the rookie setter will be the team’s starter over the coming matches.

“He did a great job for his first match as a Cardinal,” Cruz said. “I thought he did a great job, and I think he's gonna only continue to get better.”

Ball State’s offense — in its fifth-straight match without preseason all-conference hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva — recorded 30 kills at a .067 hitting percentage. The Cardinals’ marks on the attack sharply regressed from their performance on Friday, when they recorded 31 kills at a .247 clip.

For the third-straight match, sophomore outside hitter Patrick Rogers led Ball State in kills (9). The 6’7”  transfer from St. Francis Brooklyn has paced the Cardinals’ hitters in the early part of 2024, with a team-best 37 kills across 10 sets played.

Junior outside hitter Aaron Hernandez finished second on the squad with eight kills, tied for the top mark in his career. The native of Fishers, Indiana, earned his second career start against BYU on Saturday, and his first against a ranked opponent.

“We think he did well, and obviously having our local dude from Indiana play well, it’s always fun to see,” Cruz said.

Senior libero Lukas Pytlak earned the starting nod in the opposite-colored jersey Saturday night after freshman Cameron Gray started at the libero spot the night before. Pytlak’s five digs matched Rogers’ total for the top mark for a Cardinals’ defense which dug up 21 attacks in the loss.

Ball State’s blockers accumulated five total blocks, which meets their total in the opening match of the road series. Junior middle blocker Vanis Buckholz, Machado and Rogers each recorded two blocks to pace the team. 

Although the Cardinals did not earn their desired results on their trip to Utah, Cruz highlighted the long-term benefits of their losses this weekend.

“We’re trying to make sure we're on the right path before we get into our conference stretch in February, and matches like this is what gets us a step closer that way,” Cruz said.

Ball State (3-2) will return to Muncie next week for a pair of home matches, battling UC San Diego (2-1) on Thursday, January 11, and facing Tusculum (0-0) on Saturday, January 13. The Cardinals matched up against both schools last season, earning five-set victories in both matches.

Cruz highlighted key areas that he plans to refine ahead of the Cardinals’ weekend slate, which kicks off in just five days.

“We're just making sure we're a little bit more clean on offense and a little bit more efficient,” Cruz said.
Contact Adam Altobella with comments on X @AltobellaAdam or via email at


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