PRINCETON, N.J. – The No. 15 Ball State men’s volleyball team battled back from two sets down to defeat Princeton (21-25, 19-25, 25-20, 26-24, 15-4) Saturday evening. AVCA National Player of the Week Marcin Niemczewski led the offense while MIVA Defensive Player of the Week David Ryan Vander Meer picked up a match-high in digs. Senior setter Graham McIlvaine tallied his second double-double of the season.
With the win the Cardinals improve to 5-3 on the season while the Tigers fall to 0-4 on the year. Ball State is currently on a four-match winning streak. Princeton was coming off a five-set loss to IPFW on Friday evening.
Niemczewski led the offense with a career-high 25 kills on the night off a .364 hitting percentage (25-9-44). The sophomore added seven digs and four assisted blocks. Senior Larry Wrather was the second Cardinal in double digits in kills with 10. His stat line included an assist, ace, five digs and two assisted blocks. Junior Matt Sutherland provided key offensive production for the Cardinals off the bench with nine kills to go with six digs and four assisted blocks. Senior Kevin Owens registered seven kills with two solo blocks and six assisted blocks.
McIlvaine finished with his second double-double of the season off 47 assists and 10 digs. In addition, the senior had seven assisted blocks, the third time in his career he has had seven assisted blocks. Vander Meer got under 15 digs to go with four assists. Senior Matt Leske had three kills to go with a solo block and eight assisted blocks.
An ace and a Ball State attack error gave Princeton a slight 5-3 lead in the first set. Ball State was not able to maintain a run as service errors plagued the Red and White early on. A triple block by the Tigers extended their lead to 11-7. Princeton would get a block a few points later to get a 14-9 lead causing the Cardinals to call a timeout. The Tigers would force the Cardinals to a call a timeout down 17-11 after a service ace from Will Siroky. Ball State battled back late in the first set capitalizing on a kill from McIlvaine and two-straight Princeton attack errors to force the Tigers to call a timeout leading 22-19. The Cardinals could not recover, however, as the Tigers took the first set 25-21.
The second set started out similar to the first with Princeton benefitting from Ball State errors. Princeton rattled off six-straight points early in the second set to take a 12-5 lead. The Cardinals would secure kills from Niemczewski and Wrather and force a service error and an attack error by the Tigers to bring the Princeton lead to 11-10. Ball State would stay within one point until Princeton pulled away off a kill, ace and BSU attack error. The Tigers would not look back and took the second set 25-19.
The Cardinals jumped out to a quick lead in the third set of kills from Wrather and Niemczewski. The Tigers inched back and were able to tie the set at 13-all off a service ace. The teams would trade points back and forth until the set was tied again at 16-all. From that point, Princeton made a service error while Niemczewski and Sutherland added kills. An attack error from the Tigers’ Pat Schwagler caused Princeton to call a timeout with Ball State up 20-16. Ball State maintained its lead the rest of the set and picked up a 25-20 set win off a kill from Owens.
The fourth set was tightly contested with nine ties in the early goings. With the score tied at 11-all Ball State would get back-to-back kills from Owens and Wrather. The Tigers would come back and tie the set at 15-all after a Ball State attack error. Five more ties and a Cardinal attack error would see the Tigers take a 21-20 lead late in the set causing the Cardinals to call a timeout.
Three kills from Sutherland would give Ball State a 23-22 lead. Princeton’s Junior Oboh would commit an attack error giving Ball State its first look at set point, 24-22. Back-to-back kills from the Tigers’ Pat Schwagler tied the set at 24-all causing Ball State to call time. Out of the timeout Ball State registered consecutive kills from Leske and Niemczewski to force a fifth set.
The Cardinals came out of the gate strong in the fifth and decisive set profiting from two attack errors by the Tigers along with a kill from Niemczewski and a Leske-Wrather block. Two service errors by Princeton and a kill and block by Owens have Ball State a 9-4 advantage. From there the Cardinals would score the last six points of the set off the serve of Wrather.
Princeton was led offensively by Devin Stearns and Cody Kessel each with 13 kills. Pat Schwagler added 10 kills.
Ball State is back on the road next weekend traveling to Quincy on Friday, Feb. 14 before visiting Lindenwood on Saturday, Feb. 15. Both matches will begin at 8 p.m. ET. Check ballstatesports.com for more news and information on Ball State men’s volleyball.