No. 12 Ball State men’s volleyball completes season sweep over Purdue Fort Wayne

Senior opposite hitter Dyer Ball celebrates scoring a point against Purdue Fort Wayne March 23 at Gates Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ball scored 11 points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN
Senior opposite hitter Dyer Ball celebrates scoring a point against Purdue Fort Wayne March 23 at Gates Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ball scored 11 points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Even before setting foot inside Purdue Fort Wayne’s Gates Sports Center Saturday night, Ball State head coach Donan Cruz was aware of the hostile environment that the Cardinals were soon to compete in. Cruz described playing in the Mastodons' home arena as a “cage match,” emphasizing the consistent noise and close proximity of the fans to the court.

Cruz’s prediction did not go unfulfilled as the Purdue Fort Wayne faithful provided the anticipated energy for the second half of the 2024 Battle of I-69. The Mastodons’ sizable pep band, their boisterous team bench and engaged crowd of 909 onlookers combined to create an unwelcoming environment for the visiting Cardinals.

“We called it UFC,” Cruz said. “Everyone's just into it. This fan base appreciates good volleyball.”

Ball State prevailed in its rival’s unfriendly territory, as the 12th-ranked Cardinals defeated Purdue Fort Wayne (11-10, 5-7 MIVA) in five sets (18-25, 25-23, 26-24, 27-29, 15011). The red and white’s road triumph completed the season sweep of the Battle of I-69 and extended their win streak against their in-state foe to nine matches.

“All week the idea was a max effort on defense, and I thought that's what made the biggest difference between us and them,” Cruz said.

Though senior opposite hitter Dyer Ball entered the Gates Sports Center representing the visiting team, his appearance in Northeast Indiana marked a significant homecoming. Not only does he hail from nearby Angola, Indiana, but his family is also deeply tied to Purdue Fort Wayne’s men’s volleyball program.

Hung on the east-side wall of Purdue Fort Wayne’s home gym are two rectangular banners for Dyer’s father, Lloy Ball, one of the program’s most esteemed products. One banner honors Lloy’s four-year career (1991-1994) for the Mastodons, and the other honors his gold medal earned at the 2008 Summer Olympics as a setter for Team U.S.A.

“I'm just stoked for Dyer that he gets to carry on his own legacy,” Cruz said. “He's played big roles for us when we needed him.”

With his father’s accomplishments honored on the gym’s walls, Dyer posted his finest outing against a Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) opponent this season. The left-handed hitter slammed nine kills, recorded seven digs and served in two aces.

Dyer’s playing time has been inconsistent throughout his senior year because of freshman Braydon Savitski-Lynde’s emergence in his rookie year. Cruz, however, applauded the senior’s performance when playing on a sporadic schedule.


Sophomore opposite hitter Ryan Bartz dives to save the ball from hitting the floor against Purdue Fort Wayne March 23 at Gates Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Bartz scored 15 points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

“We've been giving a freshman the green light to start, and it's a tough conversation to have with Dyer,” Cruz said. “We just keep telling him ‘you got to be ready, and we don't know when we're going to use you.’”

Cruz led the Cardinals to their bounce-back win with an altered starting lineup and consistent substitutions throughout the match. Perhaps the most notable change came on the left side, as sophomore Ryan Bartz started in place of sophomore Patrick Rogers, whose ankle injury sustained against Ohio State forced him out of the rotation.

Bartz, who hadn’t seen the starting lineup since Ball State’s match against Queens (March 3), recorded 14 kills at a .414 clip in his return to the starting six. His production was much-needed, as the absent Rogers was the primary offensive weapon against Purdue Fort Wayne in the first meeting, with 22 kills.

“It was big for our team,” Bartz said. “It shows how much depth we have when at any time somebody could be injured.”

Though Rogers will be sidelined for one to two weeks, Cruz said he is encouraged by Bartz and senior Trevor Phillips’ performance in his place.

“The good news is to see Ryan and Trevor play as good as they can in the game,” Cruz said. “They trained really well, and it is a really good thing to see.” 

The red and white’s block also saw some fresh faces, sparked by the return of junior middle blocker Vanis Buckholz. The veteran defender had not appeared in match action in a month due to lingering lower body issues, and posted four blocks and five kills in his return. Senior Wil McPhillips also earned some of his most playing time in recent weeks, logging four blocks and four kills in the process.

Even with some changes to the Cardinals’ lineup, their usual contributors stepped up in the key MIVA match. Junior outside hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva recorded a team-best 26 kills, and freshman setter Lucas Machado dished out 51 assists and recorded 15 digs — notching his first double-double of the year.

The Cardinals’ victorious response to its setback earlier this week keeps the red and white atop the MIVA standings. Now sitting at 10-2 in conference play, they lead Loyola Chicago and Ohio State, who are tied for the second-place position with identical 9-4 records.

Ball State’s schedule does not let up with next weekend’s slate, as the Cardinals (17-8, 10-2 MIVA) will travel to Chicago for a pair of matches against No. 14 Lewis (14-11, 7-5 MIVA). Though the Flyers’ have posted a pedestrian mark in league play, their non-conference resume is among the best in the MIVA — headlined by wins against nationally ranked BYU and UC-Irvine.

“They're just a dynamic team,” Cruz said. “They have different types of arms, and they can throw different lineups at you, which makes it really hard to prepare. I think we’re in a good place though.”

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


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