No. 14 Ball State tallies key road victory over No. 10 Loyola Chicago

Road wins on Loyola Chicago’s home court have been rare over the past two decades, as the Cardinals have recorded just one away victory in the series since 2001. Thanks to a valiant fifth-set effort, Ball State bucked the trend.

Sophomore outside hitter Patrick Rogers hits the ball against Purdue Fort Wayne Feb. 15 at Worthen Arena. Rogers scored 24 points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN
Sophomore outside hitter Patrick Rogers hits the ball against Purdue Fort Wayne Feb. 15 at Worthen Arena. Rogers scored 24 points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Loyola Chicago’s lakeside campus has been historically treacherous territory for Ball State men’s volleyball. Since 2001, the Cardinals have recorded a 1-23 ledger on the Ramblers’ home court, with their lone win coming in 2020.

Ball State atoned for its past struggles Saturday night, breaking Loyola Chicago’s precedent of home success in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) matchup. The No. 14 Cardinals defeated the No. 10 Ramblers (8-7, 3-2 MIVA) in five sets (25-16, 25-23, 22-25, 18-25, 15-11) inside hostile Gentile Arena. 

“Their crowd was really good,” Ball State head coach Donan Cruz said. “As far as the history there, that's an awesome thing for Ball State to get a win tonight. We walked away with a close one.”

Ball State’s pivotal triumph not only bucked a long-standing trend of difficulties against Loyola Chicago on the road, but it also completed the sweep of the season series against the Ramblers for the first time in the rally scoring era — which dates back over 20 years.

“For us to come in understanding that this team has more familiarity with us is definitely challenging,” Cruz said. “They know what to expect, and, and the same goes for us too. Those are big ones.”

In the Cardinals’ 3-1 win over Loyola Chicago in the first meeting of the season on February 1, the Ramblers stole the first set before falling in the next three games. Ball State returned the favor Saturday by decisively winning the opening frame 25-16 — its second-largest set win against a ranked opponent in 2024 — which laid the foundation for its hot start.

The momentum gained from the Cardinals’ opening set win bled into the second frame, which the red and white won in dramatic fashion. Ball State faced an imposing 23-20 deficit late in the game, but rattled off five-straight points to build a 2-0 overall lead.

Loyola Chicago fended off the sweep by capturing a tightly contested third set — which featured eight ties and one lead change — and then seamlessly won a fourth frame in which Ball State never held an advantage.

Though the Ramblers clearly held the momentum heading into the decisive fifth set, the red and white rallied to prevent a complete unraveling. The Cardinals benefited from 10 kills and two blocks to capture the crucial fifth set — their second set-five win in their two attempts.

“I'm proud of how our guys responded,” Cruz said. “We went up early, but then credit to Loyola. They turned it around and played very intense defensive sets three and four. 

“We were able to battle back and set five, and I'm just proud of how our guys handled a really tough situation.”

Just as the course of the match flipped after the second set, Ball State’s offensive production also took a downward turn in the third and fourth frames. The Cardinals efficiently recorded .481 and .357 hitting percentages in the first and second sets, respectively, but went cold after their strong start, failing to hit above .185 in the following pair of games.

Though Loyola Chicago’s defense stymied Ball State’s hitters midway through the match, two of the Cardinals’ top offensive contributors shined throughout the contest. Sophomore Patrick Rogers and junior Tinaishe Ndavazocheva enjoyed fine outings on the left side, as they recorded 18 and 17 kills, respectively.

For the second-straight match, two setters saw time leading the Ball State offense. Freshman Lucas Machado appeared in the starting rotation but was briefly relieved of his duties by fellow rookie Peter Zurawski late in set four. Machado played for the vast majority of the match, however, and logged 42 assists, three kills and three blocks — two of which came during the fifth set.

After registering just four blocks against Loyola Chicago in the first meeting of the campaign, Ball State’s defense was a more notable factor in the second match. The red and white rejected 12 Ramblers’ attacks, and were paced by senior Rodney Wallace, who recorded seven blocks.

Perhaps making Ball State’s road win more impressive was its incomplete lineup. For the fifth time in the last six matches, junior middle blocker Vanis Buckholz was absent from the Cardinals’ rotation. The experienced frontcourt anchor returned to action in the red and white’s previous match against Purdue Fort Wayne after a two-week hiatus but was unable to suit up against the Ramblers because of a lingering knee injury.

“We thought that Will Patterson and Rodney Wallace are in a good place, and play really high level volleyball,” Cruz said. “Knowing we have that kind of depth in the middle gives Venice more time to keep rehabbing and getting better.”

Given that both teams entered Saturday night with a mutual 3-1 record in conference play, Ball State’s win provided some separation in the early MIVA standings. The Cardinals are now engaged in a three-way tie for first place, as both McKendree and Ohio State boast four league wins.

Just one match lies ahead for Ball State (11-7, 4-1 MIVA) next week, a scheduling anomaly in the Cardinals’ 2024 MIVA slate. The red and white will travel to Illinois for their lone matchup, as they are set to square off against Quincy (5-4, 1-4 MIVA) Friday night.

“Friday gives us time to recover,” Cruz said. “With these two matches splits, even though we get a day of rest between, it's still really tough preparation."Contact Adam Altobella with comments on X @AltobellaAdam or via email at


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