MUNCIE, Ind. – Three Cardinals set career highs as the No. 13 Ball State men’s volleyball team earned a win in a five-set thriller against Harvard Sunday afternoon at Worthen Arena (18-25, 26-24, 20-25, 25-19, 16-14). Senior middle attacker Matt Leske and junior outside attacker Matt Sutherland notched career highs in kills while senior setter Graham McIlvaine dished out a career high in assists.
With the win Ball State extends its winning streak to eight matches and moves to 15-5 on the season. Harvard drops to 10-8 on the year. With the win, head coach Joel Walton moves to 299 career wins.
Leske picked up a career-high in kills with 14 for a .650 attack percentage (14-1-20). The senior also picked up two aces, two digs and seven blocks. After turning in a career high in kills Saturday evening against Lees McRae, Sutherland came back on Sunday afternoon and registered 13 off a .343 clip (13-1-35). The junior was one dig shy of a double double with nine.
McIlvaine dished out a career-high 56 assists to go with five kills, two aces and nine digs. Sophomore outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski notched his second-career double double with 17 kills and 10 digs.
Senior outside attacker Kevin Owens tied his season-high in kills with nine to go with four blocks. Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer got under a team-high 15 digs while junior outside attacker was the third Cardinal to notch nine digs.
The first set saw the Crimson hit a blistering .412 (8-4-34) while the Cardinals managed .111 (7-4-27). Four-straight points for Harvard allowed the Crimson to jump out to a quick 6-2 lead in the first set. After a Harvard service ace, Ball State called a timeout with the Crimson up 12-7. Harvard extended the lead to 19-10 off crisp attacking. The Cardinals battled back but were not able to overcome the Crimson’s early lead and fell 25-18 in the first frame.
Sutherland was the difference maker in the second frame notching five kills to go with Niemczewski’s four. Ball State improved its hitting in the set at .342 (16-3-38) while Harvard slowed down slightly at .382 (18-5-24). The score was tied 14 times and there were three lead changes in the set. Niemczewski tied the set at 22-all and then registered another kill to give Ball State a one-point advantage, 23-22. Coming out of the timeout, Harvard’s Nick Madden got a kill followed by a kill by Sutherland. The Crimson tied things back up with a kill from DJ White followed by another kill from Sutherland. The Cardinals would win the set 26-24 after Harvard’s Caleb Zimmick hit an attack out of bounds.
Leske was effective in the third set getting a kill on each of his attack attempts. Harvard was able to benefit from four attack errors and three service errors from Ball State in the set. The Crimson had its best hitting percentage of the match with a .455 clip in the set (17-2-33) to go with the Cardinals’ .267 attack percentage (12-4-30).
The Cardinals continued to benefit from Leske’s attacking in the fourth set with the senior notching seven kills on eight swings. Ball State earned four and a half total team blocks in the set while Harvard did not manage any blocks. The Cardinals jumped out to a 10-6 lead in the set when Harvard called its first timeout. Ball State kept the foot on the gas in the set, only committing two attack errors on the frame for a .417 attack percentage (17-2-36) to Harvard’s (17-7-40). Ball State would win the fourth set, 25-19) off a kill from Owens.
In the fifth set, Niemczewski tallied six kills while Ball State won the battle of the digs (13-8). The Cardinals jumped to a 4-1 lead causing the Crimson to call an early timeout. After consecutive kills from Owens and Niemczewski, Harvard called a timeout with Ball State closing on match point at 13-11. Coming out of the timeout Harvard’s Caleb Zimmick notched a kill followed by a Ball State attack error to knot the score at 13-13. A kill by Niemczewski gave Ball State a match point opportunity, but Harvard stayed in with a service error by the Cardinals. The match would end on a kill from Witmer and an attack error from Harvard.
Harvard outhit Ball State .335 (78-21-170) to .295 (63-17-156) and picked up 67 digs to BSU’s 56. The Cardinals held the advantage in total team blocks (11.5-6) and aces (6-3).
Harvard was led by DJ White who had a match-high 26 kills to go with 10 digs. Nick Madden finished with 17 kills and 16 digs.
Ball State returns to action Thurs., Mar. 20 when it welcomes NJIT to Worthen Arena. The match is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.