MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State men's volleyball team rallied from down 2-1 to score a thrilling 3-2 (25-12, 18-25, 21-25, 25-23, 15-13) Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association victory over visiting Grand Canyon University Saturday evening at Worthen Arena.
"Tonight was a pretty big rollercoaster ride," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. "Thankfully we finished on an up note. I thought our offense picked us up in the fifth game, and our guys made some clutch plays when we needed them to in the final set."
With the win, the Cardinals improve to 16-9 (6-4 MIVA) and remain in third in the league standings. Grand Canyon falls to 8-19 (0-7 MIVA) with the loss.
"Heading into the match, we talked in the locker room about the consistency we are trying to build as a team," added Walton. "Instead of working on our consistency, we got to work on our tenacity tonight as we scrapped with everything we had to fight our way back into the match. We found ourselves with our backs against the wall tonight and had to fight like heck just to come out with a win."
A key component to the victory was the play of redshirt sophomore Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago H.S.) in the final four sets, as he provided some pivotal kills to help BSU claim the win. He finished the match with 10 kills and a .471 hitting mark.
Senior middle blocker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Ill./Oakville, H.S.) pace the Ball State offense with 11 kills, while hitting for a match-best .526 (11-1-19) rate of success. He also tied for match-high honors with five total blocks, while adding BSU's lone service ace in the contest.
Sophomore setter Dan Wichmann (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) set the final two games for BSU, guiding the offense to a .375 (22-7-40) hitting mark. Wichmann also provided the match-winning kill, while adding 19 assists and a dig.
In the back row, sophomore outside attacker a Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) collected a team-high 10 digs, while adding eight kills and a pair of block assists.
Jake Wekell led the Grand Canyon attack with a match-best 24 kills, while adding nine digs and three total blocks. Trent Bruns led all players with a match-high 13 digs.
For the match, the Cardinals held a .286 (56-20-126) to .193 (60-29-161) hitting advantage, while out-digging GCU 56 to 44. Ball State also held an 11 to eight lead in team blocks.
The teams played to a 2-2 tie before a pair of GCU errors and a kill from Wrather gave the hosts a 5-2 edge in game one. From there, the Cardinals cruised to a 10-point lead at the 15-5 mark thanks to a kill from sophomore opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.).
Ball State did not let down the rest of the game, winning 25-12 on a block assist from Herceg and Gasparovic. The Cardinals hit for a .579 (12-1-19) rate of success in the opening game, led by four kills and a .571 mark from Wrather.
Grand Canyon turned the tide in the second game, pulling out to a 5-2 lead of its own, before taking control of the set at the 9-3 mark. GCU's largest lead of the frame came at the 19-10 mark after back-to-back Taylor Griffin kills.
The 'Lopes would go on to win the game 25-18 on back-to-back kills from Wekell. Grand Canyon would benefit from a .286 (16-4-42) hitting effort in the frame, along with six kills from Wekell.
With Ball State trailing 10-9 in the third game, the visitors would rattle off four of the next five points to force a Ball State timeout at 14-10. The Cardinals followed with three of the next four points, cutting the gap to two at 15-13.
The lead remained two at the 16-14 mark, before GCU scored the next three points leading to Ball State's second timeout at 19-14. The Cardinals would cut the lead to three on a couple of occasions, only to have the 'Lopes win the frame 25-21 on a kill from Taylor Galliano.
Game four was a back-and-forth battle, with BSU holding a slim 13-11 lead after a pair of GCU errors. The 'Lopes answered with the next three points, on a kill and back-to-back aces from Wekell, forcing a Ball State timeout at 14-13.
Gasparovic tied the score with a kill out of the break, as the teams played to an 18-18 stalemate. Grand Canyon was forced to use its first timeout two rallies later as a pair of errors gave BSU a 20-18 edge. The teams traded the next six points, pushing the score to 23-21.
A GCU kill and block on the next two rallies evened the score at 23-23 and forced Ball State's second timeout of the frame. A pivotal kill from Hartley gave BSU game-point at 24-23, while a blast from Nelson ended the set at 25-23.
Hartley continued his strong play, opening the fifth game with another huge blast to the Worthen Arena hardwood floor. A GCU attack error and two BSU blocks followed, giving the hosts a 4-0 advantage. The lead was short-lived, however, as the guests from Phoenix, Ariz., retaliated with the next four points, tying the score at 4-4.
Nelson broke the GCU momentum with a kill out of a BSU timeout, only to have a service error tie the score at five. From there, the teams battled to a 12-12 tie before a pair of GCU attack errors gave the Cardinals match-point.
A BSU service error kept the guests alive at 14-13, only to have Wichmann's lone kill of the night end the game at 15-13 and the match at 3-2 in favor of the Cardinals.
The Ball State men's volleyball team returns to action Friday, when it travels to Chicago, Ill., for a 7 p.m. (CT) first serve versus MIVA rival and 11th-ranked Loyola.