MUNCIE, Ind. – The No.12 Ball State men’s volleyball team completed the season sweep of the No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes with a 3-1 win (28-26, 22-25, 25-22, 25-20) Sunday afternoon at Worthen Arena. The last time the Cardinals had swept the Buckeyes in the regular season was during the 2002 campaign. Ball State was led by senior middle attacker Kevin Owens who fired off a season-high 16 kills.
With the win, Ball State improves to 17-5 on the season and 6-2 in MIVA play while Ohio State falls to 8-13 on the year and 4-6 in conference play. The Cardinals are on a 10-match winning streak, including nine consecutive victories in Worthen Arena. The nine-match winning streak at home eclipses last season’s stretch of eight consecutive wins.
Owens was able to hit a blistering .800 hitting percentage behind 16 kills on 20 swings. The senior did not commit a single attack error and also managed four digs. Junior outside attacker Matt Sutherland registered a career-high 14 kills while sophomore outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski was able to tally his third double-double of the season off 13 kills and a team-high 15 digs.
Also tallying double-digit digs for the Cardinals were junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer with 12 and junior outside attacker Shane Witmer with 10. Senior middle attacker Matt Leske liked to do things in threes with three solo blocks, three assisted blocks and three service aces. The senior was also able to counter Owens providing eight kills of 14 swings.
Senior setter Graham McIlvaine had a match-high 50 assists to go with a career-high-tying six kills, two service aces, five digs and three blocks.
The Cardinals started off the match scoring the first four points of the first set off a Buckeye service error, an ace by McIlvaine and two attack errors by the Buckeyes. Ohio State would battle back to take the lead at 13-11 before errors would knot the set back up at 13. Ball State only managed a two-point cushion before the Buckeyes were able to capitalize on errors and take a 20-19 lead. Out of a timeout, Ball State would commit two more attack errors to give Ohio State the 22-19 advantage.
Sutherland and Niemczewski fired consecutive kills after the timeout to bring the Ohio State lead to one, 22-21. Two kills by Ohio State would give the Buckeyes an opportunity for set point at 24-21. Back-to-back attack errors would keep Ball State in the set and force Ohio State to call a timeout leading 24-23. Leske earned a service ace after the Buckeyes were out of rotation, to tie the set at 24-all. The set would be tied twice more as the Cardinals came out victorious off two kills from Sutherland and two Buckeye errors.
The second set saw 14 tied scores and four lead changes with McIlvaine, Niemczewski and Owens all knocking in four kills each for the Cardinals. Ohio State would call its first timeout of the set after three consecutive blocks by Ball State to give the Cardinals an 11-9 advantage. The Buckeyes would battle back and took a 21-18 lead off consecutive kills from Lutz and Michael Henchy. Ball State would tie the set at 22-22 after two kills from Owens, a kill from Witmer and an Ohio State attack error. Lutz would register two kills to give Ohio State a 24-22 set point opportunity that turned into a win after a Ball State attack error.
Owens rattled off six kills in the third set to help Ball State hit a .333 (16-5-33) for the set to Ohio State’s .258 set three clip (13-5-31). The beginning of the set was close but the Cardinals were able to pull ahead after back-to-back Buckeye errors to take a 14-11 lead. Ohio State would come back and knot the set at 20-20, but it was all Ball State from that point. The Cardinals scored five of the final seven points of the set, earning the win off a kill from Leske.
It was all Ball State in the third set with the Cardinals leading throughout the set. Ball State hit a match-best .366 in the set (19-4-41) while Ohio State managed a .205 clip in the set (13-5-39). An over pass allowed Witmer to set up McIlvaine for the match-winning kill.
Ball State hit .285 for the match (62-21-144) while Ohio State registered a .254 percentage (56-21-138). The Cardinals hit eight service errors and earned eight and a half total team blocks. Ohio State held the advantage in digs, 55-53.
Ball State will head on the road for the first time in a month when it travels to No. 1 Loyola for an 8 p.m. match on Thurs., Mar. 27. Check ballstatesports.com for more news and information on Ball State men’s volleyball.