MUNCIE, Ind. – The Ball State men’s volleyball team dropped its opening match of the season 25-21, 25-16, 25-17 at the hands of No. 1 UC Irvine Saturday night at Worthen Arena. Senior middle attacker Kevin Owens led the Cardinals with eight kills while fellow middle Matt Leske patrolled the middle with two solo blocks and three assisted blocks.
The Cardinals fall to 0-1 on the season while the Anteaters improve to 3-1. UC Irvine was coming off of a five-set loss to No. 7 Loyola-Chicago.
Owens had two solo stuffs and an assisted block to go with his kills. Freshman Brendan Surane connected on six kills in his collegiate debut and got under five digs and assisted on two blocks. Leske had four blocks to go with his defensive effort.
Senior setter Graham McIlvaine had 23 assists on the night to go with two assisted blocks. Junior David Ryan Vander Meer got the start at libero and finished with a team-high seven digs.
The service line got the better of the Cardinals, forcing 13 service errors. The bright spot came from Marcin Niemczewski who knocked in an ace in the third set. UC Irvine had the advantage in total team blocks (11.5 – 8.5), hitting percentage (.195 – .048), digs (30 – 22) and aces (6 –1).
Ball State led in the first set capitalizing on early UCI misconnections. The turning point of the set came as the score was tied at 12-12. Starting setter Michael Saeta went down after attempting a block with an ankle injury. He was replaced by Roberto Frazzoni who spearheaded the comeback to win the set 25-21.
The second set saw the Anteaters’ offense pick up to .310 (14-5-29) while the Cardinals managed .040 (7-6-25). Zack La Cavera dominated the second set picking up 10 kills off a .261 clip. The third set had a similar tone offensively for Ball State while UC Irvine benefitted from five service errors and nine attack errors.
The Anteaters were led offensively by Zach La Cavera and Jeremy Dejno with 18 and 10 kills, respectively. Scott Kevorken, Colin Mehring and Roberto Frazzoni each had four assisted blocks.
Ball State is hosting its annual alumni match Sunday, Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. at Worthen Arena. The Cardinals are back in action Saturday, Jan. 11 as it hosts St. Francis for a 7:30 p.m.