MUNCIE, Ind. – The No. 12 Ball State men’s volleyball team dropped a tough 3-2 loss at the hands of the No. 1 Loyola Ramblers Thursday evening in Chicago (23-25, 23-25, 25-16, 25-22, 16-14). Senior middle attacker Kevin Owens and junior outside attacker Shane Witmer lead the Cardinals with 12 kills each while sophomore outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski added 10.
Ball State falls to 17-6 on the season and 6-3 in MIVA action while Loyola improves to 20-1 on the season and a spotless 10-0 in league action. The match saw 28 tied scores and five lead changes.
Owens finished with a .500 hitting percentage with 12 kills off 20 swings and two attack errors. The senior added five assisted blocks and a dig. Witmer finished the night with a .321 clip to go with three assists, four digs and two assisted blocks. Niemczewski finished with 10 kills, nine digs and five assisted blocks.
Senior middle attacker Matt Leske finished with eight kills of a .800 hitting percentage (8-0-10) and nine total blocks. Senior setter Graham McIlvaine registered a career-high seven kills to go with 38 assists, eight digs and five blocks. Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer tallied 14 digs and three assists.
Ball State benefitted from Loyola miscues in the first set jumping out to a 12-6 lead. Consecutive service errors by the Ramblers would get Loyola to within two points, 13-11, causing Ball State to call a timeout. A kill by junior outside attacker Matt Suthlerand and two Loyola attack errors helped Ball State to push to a 16-12 lead. The Ramblers battled back to tie the first set at 20-20. Errors by Loyola down the stretch would give Ball State the 25-23 set win.
The second set saw the Ramblers jump out to a 10-6 lead. Loyola could call a timeout after a Leske-Sutherland bock, holding on to a one point lead at 18-17. Kills from Leske and Owens as well as two key kills from McIlvaine down the stretch gave Ball State the 25-23 lead on the Ramblers.
Loyola started off hot in the third set jumping out to an 11-8 lead causing Ball State to call its first timeout. Loyola’s Cody Caldwell netted five of his eventual 24 kills in crucial points in the third set to help Loyola take a 25-16 win. Owens led the way for Ball State with three kills in the set while Niemczewski and Vander Meer each picked up six digs apiece.
Witmer helped Ball State with seven kills in the fourth set. After a Loyola service error, a kill by Owens and a block by Niemczewski and Owens, Ball State was within one point of Loyola at 11-10. The Ramblers would extend their lead to 19-16 after a kill from Joe Smalzer. Consecutive kills by Witmer helped whittle the Loyola lead to one at 22-21. Caldwell lead the Ramblers in the finals points with two kills to give Loyola the 25-22 set win.
The decisive fifth set saw the score tied eight times and two lead changes. At the switch, Loyola led 8-7 after capitalizing on a few errors by Ball State. Ball State would call its final timeout of the set after Loyola pushed its lead to 12-9 in the set. The Cardinals responded with a kill from Witmer and forced a Loyola attack error. A Witmer-Owens block and a kill from Owens knotted the set at 13-13. Both teams would trade to kills to tie the set again at 14-14. A Loyola kill and a Ball State attack error would end the match and give the Ramblers the come-from-behind victory.
Loyola held the advantage in attack percentage .265 (70-30-151) to .244 (54-22-131) and digs (52-45) while Ball State had 15 blocks to Loyola’s 10.5 blocks.
Ball State returns home to Worthen Arena when it hosts No. 11 Lewis at 7:30 p.m. There will be a poster signing at the conclusion of the match.
For the most up-to-date news on Ball State men’s volleyball, follow @bsuathletics and @BallStateMVB on Twitter. The team is also on Instagram at @ballstatemvb.