MUNCIE, Ind. – The No. 12 Ball State men’s volleyball team is taking its 10-match winning streak to Chicago for a Thursday night match up with No. 1 Loyola-Chicago. The first serve between the MIVA foes is set for 8 p.m. ET.
Scouting Ball State
The Cardinals (17-5, 6-2 MIVA) are on a 10-match winning streak after picking up a 3-1 win over then-No. 15 Ohio State on Sun., Mar. 23. Senior middle attacker Kevin Owens hit a season-high 16 kills in the win for a .800 hitting percentage while sophomore outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski added his third double-double of the season with 13 kills and 15 digs. Junior outside hitter Matt Sutherland tallied a career-high 14 kills in the match against the Cardinals’ longtime rival.
Ball State leads the MIVA in blocks per set (2.88) and digs per set (10.32). Senior middle attacker Matt Leske leads the conference and is second in the nation with his 1.51 blocks per set average while junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer is first in the MIVA and sixth in the country with his 2.65 digs per set average.
Ball State is hitting a .264 attack percentage for the season while holding opponents to a .184 clip. Sophomore outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski has 258 kills on the season for a 3.49 kills per set average while senior middle attackers Kevin Owens and Matt Leske, red-shirt senior outside attacker Larry Wrather and junior outside attacker Shane Witmer have each tallied over 100 kills on the season.
Senior setter Graham McIlvaine has dished out 716 assists and has registered 28 aces and 114 digs. Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer leads the digging for the Cardinals with 209 on the season while Witmer and Niemczewski also have eclipsed 100 digs.
The Ramblers (19-1, 9-0 MIVA) remain the nation’s No. 1 team after picking up wins over then-No. 14 Penn State and Saint Francis last weekend.
Loyola-Chicago is on a nation’s best 17-match winning streak and has only dropped 11 sets this season - including dropping a set to Ball State when the teams met on Thurs., Feb. 20.
Loyola-Chicago has the nation’s best hitting percentage at .382 and lead the MIVA in kills per set (13.90) and assists per set (12.91). Red-shirt senior opposite hitter Joseph Smalzer is a threat from behind the service line, boasting the best aces per set average in the nation at 0.73.
Series with Loyola-Chicago
The Ramblers hold the all-time series advantage at 25-19, including a 3-19 mark at home against the Cardinals. The last time Ball State won in Chicago was on Apr. 17, 1999.
The Last Time Out
The Ramblers came out victorious in the meeting against the two squads on Thurs., Feb. 20 with a 3-1 win in front of the largest home crowd of the season. Sophomore outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski lead the Cardinals with 16 kills while senior outside attacker Larry Wrather got under a season-high 11 digs. Loyola held the advantage in blocks (6-4), digs (40-35) and hitting percentage (.369 - .225).
Stuck In The Middle With You
All-American middle attackers Matt Leske and Kevin Owens are both hitting at over .400 for the season at .411 and .404, respectively. The seniors have a combined 263 kills on the year. The two also head up the blocking for the Cardinals with 186 total blocks between the two this season. Leske has had 12 matches this season with at least five blocks. Owens, who is coming off a season-high 16 kills against then-No. 15 Ohio State, has hit .608 in the last five matches including a .800 clip against the Buckeyes. Owens has only committed four errors in his last 65 swings.
The Doctor Is In
Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer got under a career-high 23 digs against NJIT to set a rally-scoring era school record for most digs in a four-set match. The count marked the second time this season Vander Meer had tallied over 20 kills. The libero has tallied double digit digs in nine matches, including the last five matches. For his efforts against NJIT and Ohio State, Vander Meer earned his second MIVA Defensive Player of the Week honor.
Sophomore outside hitter Marcin Niemczewski has recorded two double-doubles in his last three matches. Against Harvard on Sun., Mar. 16, the sophomore registered 17 kills and 10 digs. The Vernon Hills, Ill., native followed up that performance with 13 kills and 15 digs against then-No. 15 Ohio State on Sun., Mar. 23.
Head coach Joel Walton made history and won his 300th-career win on Thurs., Mar. 20 with Ball State’s 3-1 win over NJIT.
The fourth set of the Lees McRae match on Sat., Mar. 15 saw Ball State make a rally scoring era record. The 25-3 win in the fourth set was the largest margin of victory that the Cardinals have had since the 2000 season. In a match vs. Long Island South Hampton on Jan. 15, 2000 Ball State won 15-2, 15-3, 12-15, 15-0.
We Can Go The Distance
Ball State is a perfect 3-0 this season when the match goes to the fifth set. The Cardinals picked up their third 3-2 win over the season in a thriller against Harvard Sun., Mar. 16 in Worthen Arena. Senior middle attacker Matt Leske and junior outside attacker Matt Sutherland each notched career highs in kills with 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Senior setter Graham McIlvaine dished out a career-high 56 assists while sophomore outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski registered his second double double of the season with 17 kills and 10 digs.
Ball State has completed season sweeps of MIVA foes IPFW and Ohio State. The victory over then-No. 12 IPFW on Mar. 11 marked the first time Ball State has completed the regular season sweep of its I-69 rival since the 2011 season. Ball State then earned the season sweep of Ohio State taking down the then-No. 15 Buckyes, 3-1 in Worthen Arena. The last time Ball State swept Ohio State was during the 2002 season.
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