MUNCIE, Ind. - - Behind career performances from most of the squad, the Ball State men's volleyball team pulled off its biggest win of the season, defeating No. 10 Ohio State 3-2 (21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 15-12) in a rare Sunday evening showdown at Worthen Arena.
With the win, the Cardinals snap an 11-match losing streak to the defending national champion Buckeyes and pick up a pivotal win in Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association play. BSU improves to 12-7 (4-4 MIVA) with the victory, while handing OSU its second league loss and dropping them to 13-7 (3-2 MIVA).
Leading the impressive list of performances for the Cardinals was redshirt sophomore middle attacker Matt Leske (Highwood, Ill./Highland Park) who collected his first career double-double with career-highs of 13 kills and 12 total blocks (four solo and eight assists).
Junior opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius) led Ball State from the attack line, posting his third career-best performance in the last four matches, this time blasting a career-high 22 kills including the match-winner. He also finished the match with 10 digs for his second career double-double, while adding three blocks and hitting .255 (22-9-51).
Sophomore middle attacker Kevin Owens (Fishers, Ind./Cathedral) continued the career night for the Cardinals, blasting a career-best 15 kills and hitting for a .591 (15-2-22) rate of success. He also collected a pair of digs and two block assists.
Junior setter Dan Wichmann (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) guided the Ball State offense to a .268 (72-28-164) hitting effort in the contest, dishing out a career-high 60 assists and adding a career-best 10 digs for his first career double-double.
Junior outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest) added a career-best and match-high 19 digs, while blasting 10 kills for his second career double-double. Rounding out BSU's career performances was sophomore libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral) who tied a career-high with 18 digs.
Shawn Sangrey led the Ohio State attack with 24 kills, while Mik Berzins scored 16 and Anthony Hock added 12 in the loss. Sangrey and Berzins would finish the match with double-doubles, adding 10 and 17 digs, respectively.
Thanks to 15 team blocks, the Cardinals limited the Ohio State attack to a .235 (67-27-170) hitting percentage for the night. Ball State held a commanding 69-56 advantage in digs, while out-blocking OSU 15-11. Neither team would record an ace.
Herceg started the match with a kill for the Cardinals, as the host squad pulled out to an early 4-2 lead. A block and kill from Leske helped BSU extend the advantage to 7-3, and the Cardinals maintained the four-point edge at 14-10 after another Leske marker.
Unfortunately, the Buckeyes battled back to tie the score at 15, before taking its first lead at 17-16 off a Berzins kill. Ohio State would go on to win the set 25-21 on a kill from John Tholen.
Ball State surged out to a 4-1 lead in the second set thanks in part to a block and kill from Owens. The Buckeyes would fight back, however, taking a brief 11-10 edge after a BSU attack error. From there, the teams played to a 23-23 tie before a kill and block from Herceg gave the Cardinals a 25-23 set victory.
The teams played to an 8-8 stalemate in the third set before a 4-1 Ohio State run gave the Buckeyes control of the scoreboard at 12-9. Ball State would battle back within one, at 20-19, only to see the visitors collect the next three points and win the set 25-23 on a BSU attack error.
The Cardinals held another 4-1 lead in the fourth set, before the Buckeyes battled back to tie the score at 6-6. With the score tied a 9-9, the Cardinals rattled off five of the next six points to force the defending national champions to call timeout trailing 14-10.
Ohio State answered with the next three points, leading to a Ball State timeout. BSU redshirt freshman Matt Sutherland (Rochester, N.Y./Penfield) smashed a kill out of the timeout to help the Cardinals recapture a three-point advantage at 17-14. The teams then traded three-point runs, pushing the score to 20-17 in favor of the hosts.
Following its second timeout, the Buckeyes went on a 5-1 run to take a 22-21 lead on a kill from Hock. Ball State answered with a kill from Herceg and a Leske solo block to pull ahead 23-22. Following an OSU kill, Herceg and Leske collected back-to-back kills to end the set at 25-23 and force a deciding fifth frame.
Ohio State played to an 8-5 edge at the court switch and looked poised to win the match leading 10-6. However, the Cardinals were determined to snap its 11-match losing streak to OSU and posted the next five points to take an 11-10 lead on a kill from Wrather.
After the Buckeyes tied the score at 11-11, back-to-back Herceg markers gave BSU the momentum, while a kill from Leske gave BSU match-point at 14-11. Following a Ball State service error, Herceg put an exclamation point on the victory with his 22nd kill of the night sending the Worthen Arena crowd into frenzy.
The Ball State men's volleyball team will now close the 2012 regular season with five straight road matches beginning Tuesday with a 7 p.m. (CT) first serve at Loyola.