MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State (19-10) men's volleyball team closed out the 2011 regular season with a 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20) senior day victory over Saint Francis (10-17) Saturday evening at Worthen Arena in the final match of the 2011 Don Shondell/Active Ankle Challenge.
Playing in their final regular season home match for the Cardinals were seniors J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.), Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.), Lee Meyer ( Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.), Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) and Dominic Spadavecchio (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.).
"Our five seniors have shown great leadership in a lot of different areas of their lives," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. "We are going to miss these guys. I don't think our team realizes it yet, but we are going to have to look to some of our younger players to step into leadership roles next season and they have some big shoes to fill. Anders, J.D., Dominic, Marcus and Lee are five great individuals who have come together to be a fantastic senior class for us."
Nelson turned in a dominating senior night performance for the Cardinals, blasting a season-high 17 kills to pace four BSU players in double-figures for the night. The league's leading blocker also added six total blocks (two solo and four assists) and served up a season-best three aces, while hitting for a .414 (17-5-29) rate of success.
Gasparovic continued his impressive play, blasting 10 kills in the win, while adding five digs and three total blocks (one solo and two assists).
In his second start as the team's libero this weekend, Imwalle led all players with a match-best and career-high tying 15 digs.
Meyer finished the contest with eight digs, six kills, two aces and a block assist, while Spadavecchio collected four digs and two kills.
In addition to Nelson and Gasparovic, redshirt sophomore opposite attacker Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago H.S.) and sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) added double-digit kills in the contest with 12 and 10, respectively.
As a team, the Cardinals completed the match with a .209 (58-31-129) hitting mark, while limiting the Red Flash to a .186 (43-19-129) mark. Led by Imwalle's match-best 15 digs, Ball State also held a 57 to 34 edge in team digs. BSU also out-aced SFU seven to one, while being out-blocked 15.0 to 9.5.
Alex Kane led the Saint Francis attack with 16 kills, while Adam Barba added nine. Eric Syty collected a match-high seven total blocks, while John Wappler earned a team-best 12 digs.
With Saint Francis holding a 2-1 lead at the start of the match, a kill from Spadavecchio and some strong serving from Gasparovic helped Ball State score the next six points and pull ahead 7-2. The visitors would draw within two points at 7-5 and again at 9-7, only to see BSU control play the rest of the set.
Ball State reclaimed its five-point lead at the 13-8 mark, before pulling ahead by eight at 18-10. The Cardinals went on to win the frame 25-15 on a Gasparovic kill. The Cardinals hit for a .542 (15-2-24) rate of success in the opening game, led by a 3-for-3 effort from Hartley.
The teams battled to a 12-12 stalemate in the second stanza, before back-to-back kills from Saint Francis' Barba sparked a 3-0 run for the guests and gave them at 15-12 edge. The Red Flash extended the lead to four at the 18-14 mark, only to see Ball State battle back and tie the score at 19-19 thanks in part to a pair of kills from Wrather.
Two consecutive SFU blocks broke the tie and gave the visitors a 21-19 edge. The teams traded the next six points, pushing the score to 24-23, before a BSU service error allowed Saint Francis to win the game 25-23 and even the match at one game apiece.
With the Cardinals leading 4-3 in the third game, two blocks and a kill from Barba helped SFU rattle off the next four points and force a Ball State timeout at 7-4. Another Barba kill extended the lead to 8-4, and the edge remained four at the 14-10 mark when BSU was forced to call its second timeout.
Trailing 16-12, a kill and ace from Wrather bookended a 5-0 run for the Cardinals and gave the hosts a 17-16 advantage. Nelson added a pair of blocks, including a solo stuff, in the rally. With the score tied at 19-19, a kill from Meyer and a Gasparovic solo block helped push the score to 22-19 and forced SFU's second timeout.
Gasparovic tallied an overpass kill after the break, moving the score to 23-19, while another Gasparovic marker gave BSU game-point at 24-20. While the Red Flash tallied the next three points, a Meyer kill ended the frame at 25-23.
Saint Francis score the first two points of the fourth frame, only to see the Cardinals answer with seven of the next eight to force a SFU timeout at 7-3. Nelson carried BSU in the run with four kills and a block assist. Three kills from Hartley helped BSU maintain the four-point lead at 11-7, while a Meyer ace pushed the advantage to five at 12-7.
The Red Flash would cut the gap to two points at the 15-13 mark, only to see BSU respond with the next five points, including a kill and two of aces from Nelson, to move the score to 20-13.
With Ball Sate leading 21-14 after a Gasparovic and Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) block assist, SFU rattled off the next three points to force a BSU timeout at 21-17. Moments later a Lucas Behringer kill and a SFU block brought the guests within two at 21-19.
However, a pair of costly Saint Francis errors pushed the score to 23-19 and gave BSU edge in needed to close out the match. A Wrather kill gave BSU match-point at 24-20, while a triple block from Nelson, Hartley and Wrather ended the set at 25-20 and the match at 3-1.
The Cardinals open play in the 2011 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament Saturday as the No. 3 seed when they host No. 6 seed Quincy in a 7:30 p.m. quarterfinal match at Worthen Arena.