COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 14 Ball State men’s volleyball team led by sophomore Marcin Niemczewski and junior Shane Witmer would down No. 13 Ohio State 3-1 (20-25, 26-24, 25-20, 26-24) Wednesday evening at St. John Arena. Ball State’s win marked the first time the Cardinals have won on the Buckeyes’ home court since the 2006 season.
With the win Ball State improves to 8-5 on the season and 4-2 in MIVA action while Ohio State falls to 7-7 on the year and 4-3 in league play. Ball State last won in St. John Arena back on April 7, 2006 in a three-set sweep.
Niemczewski put up a match-high 18 kills on the night and added eight assisted blocks and a solo stuff. Witmer had a blistering .406 hitting percentage that helped him register a career-high 17 kills. Witmer’s previous career high was 15 set at Limestone on Jan. 27, 2012. The junior passed 18 balls on the night without committing a reception error and had four digs and three assisted blocks.
Leske had a strong night at the net with 10 assisted blocks and a solo block to go with six kills and a .545 attack percentage (6-0-11). Fellow middle attacker Kevin Owens added a solo block and two assisted blocks and three kills.
Junior Matt Sutherland got the start and got under 10 digs and tallied eight kills. Libero David Ryan Vander Meer registered a team-high 10 digs while senior setter Graham McIlvaine had 46 assists, five digs and three kills.
The first set started back and forth with neither team able to mount much of a run. With the match tied at 7-7, Ohio State was able to string together three points to take a 10-7 lead. Ball State was able to get within one point, 14-13, after two Witmer kills, a kill from Niemczewski and an ace from Leske.
From their Ohio State took the next four out of five points to force Ball State to call a timeout down 18-14. A kill from Sutherland was followed by two kills and a block by the Buckeyes to push the Cardinals to use their final timeout of the set down 21-15. Ohio State would go on to win the set, 25-20.
Ball State would call its first timeout of the second set after Ohio State rattled off three points to take a 12-10 lead. A Buckeye service error and two kills from Niemczewski along with a kill by Owens gave the Cardinals a 15-14 lead. Three kills from Witmer along a Niemczewski-Leske block helped guide Ball State to a 22-19 late in the second set.
Coming out of a timeout, the Buckeyes knotted the set at 22-22 with two consecutive kills. A kill by OSU’s Miles Johnson followed by a Michael Henchy service error brought the set back to even at 23-23. On the next play, Leske would put up a big solo block to give Ball State a potential set point at 24-23. Ohio State did not go away getting a kill from Johnson. Consecutive kills from Witmer gave Ball State the second set, 26-24.
The Cardinals trailed early in the third set put were able to string points together off kills from Witmer, Niemczewski and Sutherland to knot the set at 14-14. Ohio State took an 18-15 lead after two Ball State attack errors forcing the Cardinals to call a timeout. Three consecutive attack errors from the Buckeyes tied the set back up at 18.
Ohio State would get a kill off a blocking error to take a 19-18 lead but from there Ball State took control. A kill from Niemczewski followed up by a left-handed kill from Leske gave the Cardinals a one-point advantage. Ohio State would call a timeout after the next point when Niemczewski drilled a kill home. A Leske-Witmer block followed up by a service ace from Sutherland gave Ball State a 23-19 lead. A service error by Ball State followed by an Ohio State attack error set up Witmer kill to give the Cardinals the 25-20 win.
The fourth set was knotted late with Ball State calling a timeout with Ohio State up 18-16 off two kills and a Ball State attack error. Coming out of the time out the teams would trade points back and forth put a Witmer kill followed by a kill by Sutherland and a Niemczewski-Leske block would give Ball State a late 21-20 advantage. The fourth set would be tied at 23-23 and 24-24 but would end off the hand of Witmer with two consecutive kills to give Ball State the 26-24 set win.
Ball State hit a .252 (55-22-131) on the night while Ohio State managed a .232 clip (55-26-125). The Cardinals held the advantage in blocks, 17-8.
Ball State starts its nine-match home stand when it hosts Barton on Friday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Stay tuned to BallStateSports.com for more news and information on Ball State men’s volleyball.