No. 13 Ball State men’s volleyball defeats No. 8 Ohio State in first match of season series

Junior opposite hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva jumps to spike the ball against Queens March 1 at Worthen Arena. Ndavazocheva scored 16 points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN
Junior opposite hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva jumps to spike the ball against Queens March 1 at Worthen Arena. Ndavazocheva scored 16 points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Ball State and Ohio State are the only remaining founding institutions in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA), which came to life in 1961. The longtime members of the storied conference have combined to win 45 regular season titles in the MIVA’s 62 seasons of existence, making the annual meeting between the Cardinals and Buckeyes a highly anticipated affair.

The 2023 edition of the Ball State-Ohio State rivalry featured a pair of tightly contested regular season matches: The Cardinals secured match one in Muncie, and The Buckeyes won the second outing on their home court. A rubber match came in the MIVA Tournament final, which Ohio State claimed inside Worthen Arena.

The Cardinals avenged their 2023 postseason loss to the Buckeyes, as No. 13 Ball State defeated No. 8 Ohio State (15-6, 8-3 MIVA) in four sets (34-32, 15-25, 25-22, 26-24) inside the Covelli Center Thursday night.

“I thought the volleyball on both sides was just okay,” Ball State head coach Donan Cruz said. “It was one of those where you’ve just got to figure out a way to win.”

Though Ball State’s win provided a strong response to its loss nearly a year ago, Cruz said he strives to focus the Cardinals on each match in the same light, regardless of the historical precedents of the series.

“One of the things we try to instill in our guys is that every year is a new year, and we don't need to create any kind of unnecessary rivalries in our mind,” Cruz said. “If we can be consistent with how we play teams — with this competitive edge and this ‘we don't give a crap who's across the net from us’ mentality — then I think we will find ourselves playing more aggressively.” 

Ball State and Ohio State entered the match ranked first and second, respectively, in the MIVA standings, with just one match separating the two squads. The opening frame reflected the lack of separation in the conference standings, as set one extended well beyond the normal 25-point threshold. 

Ohio State sprinted out to an 8-2 lead on its home court, but a steady Ball State comeback, catalyzed by an unrelenting offensive attack, brought the score to a competitive margin late in the set.

As the first-set score drew closer to the 25-point mark, both teams refused to give an inch. Ball State fended off four Buckeyes’ set points, and Ohio State rejected five set-winning opportunities for the Cardinals. In the end, however, the red and white prevailed in their highest-scoring set of the season, 34-32

 “You really have to be engaged in those moments,” Cruz said. “For us, I think you can see the growth in our team simply in the fact that we're maturing, and how we manage those situations.”

Despite Ball State’s late push in set one, its momentum did not carry over into the second frame. Ohio State quickly collected the set two win, limiting the Cardinals to a .000 hitting percentage in the process.

MVB v Queens 3.JPG
Freshman setter Peter Zurawski sets the ball against Queens March 1 at Worthen Arena. Zurawski scored two points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Though Ohio State appeared to turn a corner behind its defensive-dominated win in set two, the red and white ensured that their hosts would not capitalize on its success. Ball State captured the third frame — in which it led the entire way after the score was evened at 13-13 — and emerged in a decisive fourth set to complete the victorious effort.

Ohio State outpaced Ball State offensively, recording 60 kills to the Cardinals’ 55. Despite facing a slight disadvantage on the statsheet, the red and white benefited from timely offensive contributions, and their kills mark was still good enough for the program’s fifth-highest total in 2024.

Sophomore Patrick Rogers exploded for a team-best 24 kills, which set a new season-high for the outside hitter from Rutherford, New Jersey. Junior Tinaishe Ndavazocheva, with 16 terminations at a .275 clip, followed behind his fellow outside hitter in the box score.

Ball State’s primary defensive task leading into the match was to limit Ohio State’s Jacob Pasteur, the 2024 MIVA Preseason Player of the Year and one of the nation’s most potent attackers. The Cardinals succeeded in controlling Pasteur’s production, as his 11 kills was short of his 3.78 kills per set average.

En route to stopping Ohio State’s weapons, the Cardinals’ defense recorded eight total blocks, an effort led by freshman — and Ohio native — Will Patterson, who rejected four attacks.

With its statement road victory, Ball State now commands a slightly more comfortable position atop the MIVA standings than it did prior to Thursday. The Cardinals hold a two-match lead ahead of the second-place Buckeyes, with seven conference matches still to be played.

The Cardinals will soon take on the Buckeyes again, when they host them on March 21. With one match against Ohio State down, Cruz said he has a stronger feel for his team’s opponent.

“I know that if we can serve and pass the ball against a team like that, I think we're gonna be in good shape,” Cruz said. “If we serve like an elite team and we pass like an elite team, I think we can win.”

Ball State’s two-match season series against Ohio State is interrupted by the Cardinals’ Saturday-night home matchup with Lindenwood. The red and white (15-7, 8-1 MIVA) will look to down the Lions (8-9, 3-5 MIVA) for the second time in 2024 before hosting the Buckeyes for match two of the series.

Cruz said that he does not anticipate the Cardinals will overlook Lindenwood, with two pivotal matches against Ohio State bookending the meeting with the Lions. He cited the squad’s loss to McKendree (Feb. 9) as a learning opportunity that should prevent looking past opponents.

“One of the things we talked about as a staff is that the big match is on Saturday,” Cruz said. “That's the one that, no matter what happens on Thursday, we've got to be locked in there.”

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


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