Ball State men’s volleyball notches 8th straight victory in win against Lindenwood

Senior middle blocker Rodney Wallace blocks the ball against Queens March 1 at Worthen Arena. Wallace scored seven points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN
Senior middle blocker Rodney Wallace blocks the ball against Queens March 1 at Worthen Arena. Wallace scored seven points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Ball State men’s volleyball 3-0 loss to McKendree in the Cardinals’ second match of its Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) slate was a substantial setback, as it marked the first time since 2020 that the red and white had been swept by an unranked team.

The Cardinals responded to the deflating loss by prevailing in a five-set thriller against Lindenwood the next day. Since its tight win against the Lions on Feb. 10, Ball State’s record has been unblemished, with the red and white securing six more wins over the following month.

Squaring off once again against Lindenwood — the very team it opened its victory spurt against — Ball State extended its growing winning streak to eight matches. The 13th-ranked Cardinals downed the Lions (8-11, 3-7 MIVA) in three sets (25-23, 25-19, 25-23) Saturday night inside Worthen Arena.

“We just came away with a few more points in the end,” Ball State head coach Donan Cruz said. “To go 2-0 returning back from spring break was big for us, and how we're gonna go into next week.” 

Ball State’s quick sweep of Lindenwood contrasted its marathon five-setter against the Lions in early February. Cruz attributes the improvement to the Cardinals’ timely passing and their focus on turning strong defensive plays into quick offensive opportunities.

“I don't know how well we dug the ball, but we dug the ball at the right time tonight,” Cruz said. “That was the biggest piece for us.”

Senior middle blocker Rodney Wallace, who earned a starting nod in both matches against Lindenwood, underlined Ball State’s mid-season improvements and the boost provided by the Cardinals’ home fans as keys to the difference in the outcome.

“First, that was earlier in the season,” Wallace said. “I think we're a new team now. Also, the difference is just playing at home. We have great fans and a great crowd.”

Though the Cardinals’ matchup with Lindenwood is bookended by two emotional matches with longtime MIVA rival Ohio State, Cruz and Wallace both highlighted the red and white’s intent to not overlook the Lions, even when nationally ranked matches came before and after them.

“Our coaches do a great job at scouting and game planning, so that way, we don't struggle with mixing teams,” Wallace said. “There's too many good athletes in this conference and good players to take anyone lightly.”

Ball State’s Saturday-night triumph was perhaps a more personal victory for Wallace, as he spent three seasons at Lindenwood before arriving in Muncie this year. The native of Maryland Heights, Missouri, said the match provided especially “mixed emotions” because he played with many members of the Lions’ roster prior to college.

“It's pretty surreal to be on the other side of them, but it feels so good to get a win against those guys,” Wallace said.

The red and white’s hitters extended their recent streak of success in the national in, logging 45 kills at a .379 clip — marking the seventh time in the last eight matches they have eclipsed the .300 mark. Sophomore outside hitter Patrick Rogers and junior outside hitter Tinaishe Ndavazovheva paced the offensive attack, slamming 17 and 11 kills, respectively.

Though Ball State’s offense shined in the triumph, its defense posted a less-productive outing — especially considering that the Cardinals recorded at least eight blocks in seven of its previous eight matches. The red and white blockers rejected three attacks, with Rogers’ two blocks leading the way.

The Cardinals’ win, paired with other action around the MIVA, provided more breathing room for Ball State at the top of the conference standings. With Ohio State’s loss to Purdue Fort Wayne Saturday night, the red and white now hold a three-match lead over the Buckeyes and a two-match advantage over second-place Loyola Chicago.

Ball State (16-7, 9-1 MIVA), who appears poised for a boost in Monday’s new edition of the national rankings, is approaching one of the most demanding weekend slates of its season. The Cardinals host No. 8 Ohio State (15-7, 8-4 MIVA) Thursday and will travel to battle in-state rival Purdue Fort Wayne (11-9, 5-6 MIVA) Saturday.

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