FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Three Cardinals earned double doubles in a thrilling 3-2 win over No. 14 IPFW Friday evening (18-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-27, 15-10). Ball State benefited from a strong defensive night five players registering double-digit kills led by junior David Ryan Vander Meer who got under a career-high 22 digs.
With the win, Ball State improves to 3-3 on the season and starts MIVA play at 1-0. The Mastodons fall to 3-2 on the year and 0-1 in conference action.
Offensively the Cardinals were led by sophomore Marcin Niemczewski who had a career-high 22 kills while junior Shane Witmer was the second Cardinal to reach double digit kills with 10. Senior Kevin Owens added seven kills while classmates Matt Leske and Graham McIlvaine added six kills. Junior Matt Sutherland came off the bench and provided five kills.
Niemczewski was at a near triple double in his stat line with a career-high 16 digs to go with eight total blocks. Witmer also coupled his offensive production with defense for a double double picking up 10 digs. David Ryan Vander Meer doubled his previous career-high in digs and ended the night with 22 to go with a career-high 11 assists. Graham McIlvaine was the fourth Cardinal to reach a double double picking up 49 assists to go with 10 digs. Larry Wrather registered three kills although he was the only Cardinal to pass without committing an error; Wrather passed 14 balls with no reception error.
The block party was headed up by Leske and Niemczewski who had 12 and eight total blocks respectively. Leske had two solo blocks to go with a career-high 10 assisted blocks while Niemczewski had a solo block and a career-high seven assisted blocks. Owens added four blocks while McIlvaine, Witmer and Wrather added three blocks each.
History was made on the evening as McIlvaine now moves to number seven all-time in Ball State men’s volleyball history in career digs. His 49 digs against IPFW brings his career total to 2,193 digs surpassing Dave Carlson (2005-06) who had 2,153 assists in his career.
The first set started back and forth but the Mastodons were able to utilize three consecutive BSU attack errors to jump out to a 13-9 lead. Ball handling and attack errors by Ball State and kills on the part of IPFW helped the Mastodons to extend a lead 20-14 causing the Cardinals to call a timeout. IPFW continued its attacking to take the first set 25-18.
The first timeout of the second set was called by Ball State after IPFW earned three straight kills to lead 12-9. The Cardinals came out of the timeout and benefitted from a service error from the Mastodons, a block by Leske, a kill from Niemczewski and an ace from McIlvaine to take a 13-12 lead which forced IPFW to call time. The Cardinals earned three-straight points off blocks which were spearheaded by Leske. In the stretch of three points the senior had a solo block and two assisted blocks to help Ball State get to a 17-14 lead.
IPFW inched closer to Ball State down the stretch of the second set getting as close as one point when BSU lead 21-20. A kill from McIlvaine and two blocks by the Cardinals set up the winning point that saw Sutherland score the set-winning kill at 25-21.
Neither team was able to sustain much of a run in the third set. With the score tied at 22-all a Ball State would commit a service error and IPFW would get a kill to set up set point. A blocking error by the Mastodons and an attack error kept the Cardinals alive with the score at 24-all. A kill by Sutherland forced IPFW to call a timeout with Ball State facing a set point. Owens would put up the big block in the next play to give Ball State a 26-24 set win.
IPFW would rally early in the fourth set winning four-straight points for a 14-12 lead that caused Ball State to call its first timeout of the set. The Cardinals benefitted from several errors on the other side of the net and were able to tie it at 18-all. IPFW would call the next timeout as Niemczewski scored a kill and the Mastodons hit an attack error to give the Cardinals a 20-18 lead.
A ball handling error on the part of Ball State followed by a service ace brought IPFW back tied at 20-all. The teams would trade points again and come to a tie at 22. From there Ball State earned a block and forced an attack error to look at match point at 24-22. IPFW would come out of its timeout and get back-to-back kills from Eddie Rivera and Omar Rivera to tie the score at 24. A ball handling error by the Cardinals gave the Mastodons the upper hand although Niemczewski even the score at 25. IPFW ended the set with a kill and Ball State attack error.
The fifth and decisive set saw Ball State jump out to a 6-0 lead off the serve of McIlvaine. The senior helped keep the IPFW defense on its toes which forced four attack errors in that stretch. Ball State had too much momentum down the stretch and IPFW would not get closer than within three points the rest of the way. The match ended on a solo block by Witmer.
IPFW was led by Andy Sellan and Eddie Rivera who had 13 kills each along with Elon Fyfield who added 11 kills.
Ball State is next headed on the road to face George Mason and Princeton Friday, Feb. 7 and Saturday, Feb. 8. Both matches are set to begin at 7 p.m. Stay tuned to ballstatesports.com for more information on Ball State men’s volleyball or follow the team on Twitter at @BallStateMVB.