MUNCIE, Ind. - - Behind a match-high 12 kills from senior Eric Schulte (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) and a .339 team hitting percentage, the No. 15 Ball State men’s volleyball team scored a 3-0 (35-33, 33-31, 30-25) sweep of visiting Saint Francis Saturday night at Worthen Arena.
BSU continued to spread around its offense, with four different attackers logging double-figure swings to post its fifth above .300 hitting mark in the last nine matches and improve to 17-9 on the year. The Red Flash fall to 12-13 after the loss, as BSU completed a season sweep after also posting a 3-1 (29-31, 30-27, 30-28, 30-21) road win Feb. 20.
In addition to his match-high 12 kills, Schulte finished the night with a .450 (12-3-20) attack percentage while adding four digs and a pair of aces.
Also finishing the match with double-digit kills for the Cardinals were juniors Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) and Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) with 11 apiece. Nelson added a match-high seven blocks, while Meyer scored eight digs and three blocks.
In the backcourt, BSU senior libero Billy Ebel (Lenexa, Kan./Bishop Miege H.S.) added a match-high 10 digs. As a team, the Cardinals also limited the Saint Francis attack to a .223 (43-18-112) rate of success. Both teams finished the match with 12 total blocks, while BSU held a 44 to 34 advantage in digs.
Jordan Varee led the Red Flash with 11 kills despite playing in just two games. Pete Freyer added nine kills, while John Wappler collected a team-high seven digs.
Senior setter Ethan Pheister (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S. ) opened the match with his 100th career ace, giving BSU a quick 1-0 advantage. With the score tied at two, a 5-1 run by the Cardinals, including a kill and ace from senior Schulte, forced a Saint Francis timeout at 7-3.
The Cardinals continued to roll after the break, using kills from freshman Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) and Nelson to push the score to 9-3. The Red Flash would answer, however, using aces from Ryan Williams and Tyler Mattera plus a Nick Rivett kill to draw within one at 12-11.
Despite regaining its three-point lead at 16-13, the Cardinals would see the guests complete their comeback and take their first lead of the night at 22-21 on a Varee kill. Schulte followed with a kill to even the score, and from there the teams battled to a 26-26 deadlock before back-to-back Saint Francis errors gave the hosts a 28-26 edge.
After two Red Flash blocks evened the score at 28, an off-speed shot from J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) found the floor to give BSU game-point. A Patrick McManamon kill kept the guests alive, and from there the teams played to a 33-33 tie. Another Gasparovic kill would give the Cardinals their fourth game point at 34-33, while a Meyer kill finally ended the game at 35-33 in favor of Ball State.
Led by seven kills from Schulte, the Cardinals hit .340 (23-7-47) in the opening game, while the Red Flash posted a .300 (16-4-40) mark. Defensively, BSU score 18 digs in the frame compared to 16 for Saint Francis.
SFU capitalize on four early Ball State errors to take a 6-1 lead to start the second game. Trailing 9-3, a kill and ace from Schulte helped BSU pull within three at 9-6. Later in the frame, a pair of ace from Meyer helped the Cardinals tie the game at 13.
Back-to-back Varee kills helped SFU pull back ahead by two at 15-13, only to have kills from Matt Sprague (Ballwin, Mo./Marquette H.S.) and Schulte, followed by a SFU attack error give the hosts a 16-15 lead and force a timeout. The guests battled back to take a 21-20 lead, only to have a pair of errors and a Meyer kill push the score to 23-21 and force another timeout.
The Cardinals added the next two points, on a block and kill from Gasparovic, upping the advantage to four at 25-21. Four kills from four different Red Flash attackers helped the guests battle back within one at 27-26, while a solo block from McManamon tied the score at 27.
A kill and block from Nelson gave BSU a chance to take the game at 29-27, only to have a service error and back-to-back blocks give the Red Flash game-point at 30-29. Two more Nelson kills kept the Cardinals alive and helped move the score to 31-31. A Meyer kill gave BSU its second chance to win the game at 32-31, while a Gasparovic solo block ended the frame at 33-31.
The Cardinals hit .243 (18-9-37) in the second game, while limited SFU to a .209 (17-8-43) rate of success. BSU added 14 digs and five blocks in the stanza, while the Red Flash posted nine digs and five blocks.
The teams battled to a 3-3 tie in the third game before two SFU errors surrounding a Sprague kill gave the hosts a 6-3 edge. A Rivett kill and a Red Flash block helped the guest score the next two points and pull within one at 6-5. With the Cardinals holding a 10-9 lead, kills from Schulte, Meyer and Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago H.S.) helped BSU build a four-point lead at 13-9.
From there, the teams traded the next 16 points, leading to a Saint Francis timeout at 21-17. The timeout was well utilized by the guests, as they forced a BSU service error and used two McManamon aces to pull back within one at 21-20.
After the teams traded the next two points, a 5-0 run by the Cardinals which included two kills from Dominic Spadavecchio (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.) and one from Pheister, gave BSU control of the game at 27-21. Ball State went on to win the frame 30-25 on Meyer’s 11th kill of the night.
The Cardinals finished the third game with a match-high .441 (20-5-34) attack percentage, while limiting SFU to a .138 (10-6-29) rate of success in the frame. BSU also added 12 digs in the game compared to nine for the Red Flash.
The No. 15 Ball State men’s volleyball team returns to action Friday, when it travels to No. 13 Ohio State for its final regular season road match. First serve at St. John Arena is set for 7 p.m.