MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State (18-10) men's volleyball team used dominating play at the net to score a 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-22) sweep of No. 9 Penn State (21-6) Friday evening in the opening match of the 2011 Don Shondell/Active Ankle Challenge at Worthen Arena.
Led by a match-high 10 total blocks from senior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.), the Cardinals used a 15.5 to four advantage in team blocks to snap a 12-match losing streak to the Nittany Lions. Gasparovic also scored three kills and collected a dig in the victory.
With his 10 block assists in the win, Gasparovic moved to first in program history with 479 career block assists, passing Phil Eatherton's (1994-97) total of 477. Gasparovic's 547 career total blocks after tonight rank second in program history behind Eatherton's 575.
Senior outside attacker Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) also had a strong match at the net, collecting a career-high seven blocks, while adding five kills and a match-best seven digs.
Sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) led the Cardinals from the attack line with his team-best 10 kills, while redshirt sophomore Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago H.S.) posted nine. Wrather added four digs and two blocks to his stat line, while Hartley served up a pair of aces to go along with three blocks and two digs.
Freshman setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) guided the Ball State offense to a .351 (36-10-74) hitting mark for the night with 28 assists, while adding four kills and hitting a match-best .800 (4-0-5).
Thanks to its solid blocking, the Cardinals limited Penn State's the potent offense to a .162 (41-25-99) rate of success, with Joe Sunder tallying a match-high 13 kills. He also tied Meyer for match-high honors with seven digs.
The Cardinals looked poised to run away with the first frame, turning a 5-4 lead into a 12-5 advantage with some strong attacking and blocking. Wrather scored a pair of kills in the 7-1 run, while Gasparovic helped out with three block assists.
The Nittany Lions answered the call, however, rattling off nine of the next 11 points to tie the score at 14-14. Tom Comfort led the charge for PSU with three kills during the run. With the score tied at 15-15, a pair of Penn State errors gave Ball State the lead for good in the game at 17-15.
From there, the Cardinals reached game-point at 24-20 on a kill from Hartley. Penn State would not go down without a fight, using another Comfort kill and a pair of BSU errors to draw within one at 24-23. Following its second timeout, however, a kill from Wrather gave Ball State the 25-23 opening-game victory.
The teams traded the first two points in the second stanza before a 4-0 run gave the Nittany Lions a 5-1 edge. Penn State extended its lead to six points at the 12-6 mark thanks to a Nick Turko service ace. However, a service error and three more block assists from Gasparovic helped Ball State battle back and even the score at 14-14.
After a 3-0 run from the Nittany Lions moved the score to 17-14, the Cardinals responded with the next four to take an 18-17 lead and force a PSU timeout. Senior middle attacker Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) scored three of the four points with two kills and a block assist.
Ball State carried the momentum from there, going on to win the frame 25-21 on a Penn State service error. During the stretch run, the Cardinals dominated play at the net with three blocks, including two from Nelson, while a Gasparovic kill gave BSU game-point at 24-20.
Thanks in part to a kill and block assist from Wrather, the Cardinals jumped out to an early 4-1 advantage in the third game, while forcing a Penn State timeout at the 6-2 mark after another Wrather kill and PSU error.
The Nittany Lions battled back within one point at 7-6, before taking a one-point lead at 12-11 on a Sunder service ace. PSU extended its lead to two point at 16-14 off a Scott Kegerreis ace, only to see a Hartley kill and a Nelson/McIlvaine block even the score at 16-16.
The score remained deadlocked at the 21-21 mark, before another Hartley kill and a PSU attack error gave BSU the momentum. Hartley's ninth kill of the contest gave BSU match-point at 24-22, while a Penn State attack error ended the set at 25-22 and gave the Cardinals their first win over the Nittany Lions since Jan. 14, 2006.
The Ball State men's volleyball team concludes the 2011 Don Shondell/Active Ankle Challenge, as well as the 2011 regular season, Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. first serve versus Saint Francis. Ball State Sports Link will once again cover the match live on www.ballstatesports.com.