MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State men's volleyball team avenged an early-season loss with a pivotal 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-21) Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association victory over No. 12 Lewis Friday evening at Worthen Arena.
With the win, the Cardinals improve to 13-8 (4-4 MIVA) and now hold the tiebreaker over the Flyers in the MIVA race by virtue of its four-game victory. Lewis, which is now 15-8 (3-4 MIVA), topped Ball State in five on Feb. 11.
"This was a big win for us," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton."It puts us in position to control our own destiny for at least the No. 3 seed in the upcoming MIVA Tournament. However, after the match I told our team this win does not mean we have secured third place or better, we still have league matches left that we have to take care of. We cannot relax. We have to go after those other matches with the same kind of determination we played with tonight."
Leading the Cardinals from the attack line in the victory was sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) who tied for match-high honors with 15 kills, while producing a season-best .407 (15-4-27) hitting mark.
Also turning in double-digit kills for the Cardinals were senior middle attackers J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) and Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) with 11 apiece. Gasparovic would add a team-high four blocks and a .381 (11-3-21) hitting mark to his stat line, while Nelson hit .529 (11-2-17) to go along with two blocks.
Senior outside attacker Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.) also had a strong night, posting a pair of huge kills in the third game, while blasting four huge aces in the fourth frame. He finished the night with seven kills, four aces, three digs and a .500 (7-1-12) hitting percentage.
Freshman setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) guided the Ball State offense to a .342 (56-18-111) hitting mark for the night, while adding four digs and a pair of kills. Redshirt freshman libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) led all players with a match-high 14 digs.
"I think we did a really nice job with the game plan tonight," added Walton. "We made some adjustments based on the first time we had played Lewis and some things we saw them doing on film. I thought our defense did a much better job tonight than when we played in Romeoville."
Jay Petty paced the Lewis attack with 15 kills in the contest, while Brian Muesenfechter added nine. As a team, Lewis finished the contest with a .168 hitting mark, well below their season average of .290 entering the contest. Roberto Torres added a team-high nine digs for the Flyers.
In addition to out-hitting Lewis, Ball State held a 37 to 30 lead in digs. The Flyers were able to out-block (9.5 to 6) and out-ace (7 to 6) the Cardinals.
A pair of aces helped the Flyers play to an early 4-1 lead in the opening set. The guests pushed their advantage to four points, at 8-4, only to see a kill from senior outside attacker Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) spark a 5-1 BSU run, tying the score at nine.
Back-to-back kills from Gasparovic followed, giving BSU its first lead of the night at 11-9. The Cardinals controlled play from there, winning the game 25-17 on a Flyers attack error.
The Cardinals scored three of the first four points in the second game, only to see the Flyers battle back and even the score at 5-5. The score remained tied at the 11-11 mark, before four-straight Lewis points gave the guests a 15-11 edge and forced a Ball State timeout.
The 12th-ranked Flyers added the next two points out of the break, extending their lead to 17-11. Ball State answered with the next three points only to have Lewis reclaim a six-point edge at 23-17. The Cardinals would battle back with six of the next seven points, making the score 24-23, but a Matt Gallik kill ended the comeback attempt and the game at 25-23.
The teams played to an 8-8 stalemate to open the third game before a 3-1 run gave Lewis a 12-9 lead. Ball State cut the gap to one, at 12-11, only to have the Flyers post the next three points leading to a Ball State timeout at 15-11.
Trailing 17-13, the Cardinals went on a 5-1 run led by a pair of kills from both Imwalle and Wrather, to even the score at 18. Moments later, another Wrather kill gave Ball State a 20-19 lead. Three Flyers attack errors moved the score to 23-20, while back-to-back service errors gave BSU game-point at 24-21. Wrather would add the frame-winning kill on the next play at 25-21.
With the score of the fourth game tied at six, back-to-back blasts from Imwalle gave Ball State a slim 8-6 edge. Several rallies later an Imwalle ace upped the lead to four at 12-8 and forced a Flyers' timeout.
Two more Imwalle aces, surrounding a kill from Gasparovic, led to the Flyers' second timeout of the game at 15-8. Imwalle added another ace after the second timeout, while a Wrather kill followed making the score 17-9.
The Flyers would not go down without a fight, however, posting a 9-3 run to battle back within two at 20-18. After Ball State's second timeout, the teams traded the next four points, pushing the score to 22-20.
A triple block from the Flyers cut the BSU led to one, only to have a service error make the score 23-21. A costly attack error gave Ball State match-point at 24-21, while a block from sophomore opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) and Gasparovic ended the game at 25-21 and the match at 3-1.
The Ball State men's volleyball team returns to action Saturday, when it travels eight hours southeast to Bristol, Tenn., for a 7 p.m. first serve versus King College.