MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State men's volleyball team opened a two-match Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association series versus Grand Canyon University with a 3-1 (23-25, 25-18, 25-16, 25-21) victory Friday evening at Worthen Arena.
With the win, the Cardinals climb to 15-9 overall and to 5-4 in MIVA action. Grand Canyon slides to 8-18 (0-7 MIVA) with the loss.
"We knew Grand Canyon was going to be a tough team," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. "They really go after their serves and put us back on our heels in game one. We just had no offensive rhythm to start off the match. I thought we found a better rhythm in the final three games."
Leading the offensive charge for the Cardinals in Friday's win was sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.), who blasted a match-high 12 kills. He also chipped in with two of BSU's eight aces, while collecting four digs and a pair of block assists.
Senior middle attacker Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) added 10 kills in the contest, while collecting three blocks and a digs.
Senior outside attacker Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.) carried the Cardinals from the service line with a match-high four aces, as BSU held an 8 to 5 lead in aces for the contest, while only serving up nine errors compared to 19 for GCU.
After being limited to a .000 (7-7-27) hitting mark in the first game, the Cardinals finished the match with a .216 (48-23-116) rate of success, including hitting above .300 in the second and third frames. BSU's defense limited the 'Lopes to a .181 (43-22-116) hitting percentage for the match.
In the back row, Ball State redshirt freshman libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) tied Grand Canyon's Trent Bruns for match-high honors with 12 digs, with the Cardinals holding a 41 to 36 lead in digs on the night.
Ben Ponnet topped Grand Canyon's attackers with 11 kills, while Taylor Galliano added 10 to go along with a .526 (10-0-19) hitting mark.
The teams battled to a 13-13 deadlock in the opening set before a kill from Imwalle sparked a 3-0 run for the Cardinals, leading to a GCU timeout at 16-13. The 'Lopes battled back to within one at the 18-17 mark on a Jake Wekell service ace, and tied the set at 19-19 on a BSU attack error.
Two straight Grand Canyon attack errors followed, giving BSU a 21-19 edge and forcing the guests' second timeout. Ball State looked poised to win the set at 23-20, only to have GCU rattle off the next three points, tying the score at 23 and causing a Cardinals timeout.
Grand Canyon continued to hold the momentum from there, reaching game-point on a triple block. A BSU attack error followed, ending the game at 25-23.
With the Cardinals leading 7-5 in the second set, back-to-back aces and a kill from Imwalle pushed the Ball State lead to 10-5. The 'Lopes scored a block on the next rally, but would get no closer than four points the rest of the frame. A spectacular dig and kill from Wrather gave BSU its largest lead at 22-14, while a blast from Nelson ended the set at 25-18.
An ace and kill from sophomore opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) helped Ball State play to an early 7-3 edge in the third game. Several rallies later, a Nelson kill gave the hosts a 16-9 lead and forced a Grand Canyon timeout.
Back-to-back Imwalle blasts extended the lead to nine points, at 19-10, while a block from Wrather and Nelson pushed the edge to 10 at 23-13. Ball State went on to win the game 25-16 on a Grand Canyon attack error.
Leading 6-5 in the fourth game, kills from Imwalle and freshman setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) upped the BSU advantage to three at 8-5. The Antelopes battled back to tie the score at 11-11 on a block from Wekell and Jordon Tarantino, before taking the lead thanks to a Ball State error on the next play.
Two more BSU attacker errors after a timeout pushed the GCU lead to three at 14-11. Kills from Nelson and Wrather helped Ball State rattle off four of the next five points, tying the score at 15-15. The score remained tied at the 19-19 mark before a McIlvaine ace helped BSU recapture the lead at 20-19, forcing a GSU minute break.
Kills from senior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.), Herceg and Wrather gave Ball State a 23-21 edge in the fourth game, leading to Grand Canyon's second timeout of the frame. Two GCU attack errors followed, giving the Cardinals the 25-21 game win and the 3-1 match victory.
The Cardinals and Antelopes continued their two-match series Saturday with another 7:30 p.m. first serve at Worthen Arena.