MUNCIE, Ind. - - The 15th-ranked Ball State men’s volleyball team celebrated senior night in style, posting a 3-0 (30-25, 30-28, 30-28) sweep of No. 13 Loyola Saturday night at Worthen Arena.
With the win, the Cardinals end the 2010 regular season with an 18-10 overall record, including a 7-5 mark in Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association play. With the 7-5 record, Ball State earns the No. 4 seed in the upcoming league tournament and will host No. 5 seed IPFW Saturday night in quarterfinal play at Worthen Arena. First serve is set for 7:30 p.m.
In tonight’s senior night victory, it was BSU’s four departing upperclassmen who led the team to the thrilling victory. Senior setter Ethan Pheister (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) quarterbacked the Ball State offense to a season-high .364 (54-15-107) attack percentage, while dishing out a match-high 50 assists. He also added seven digs and three block assists.
On the right side, senior Eric Schulte (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) had his second-straight solid attacking night, finishing his final regular season home match with a career-high 15 kills for go along with a .333 (15-5-30) attack percentage. He also tallied four blocks, two digs and a service ace.
In the back court, senior libero Billy Ebel (Lenexa, Kan./Bishop Miege H.S.) paced all players with 13 digs. The effort upped his season total to 314, which is a BSU single-season rally scoring era record, topping the previous mark of 304 set by Ian Peckler in 2008.
Rounding out senior night was Matt Sprague (Ballwin, Mo./Marquette H.S.) with five kills, two blocks and a dig.
In addition to the play of its seniors, BSU’s middles combined for 25 kills and a .639 (25-2-36). Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) posted 13 kills and a .750 (13-1-16) attack percentage, while J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) added 12 kills and a .550 (12-1-20) hitting mark. Gasparovic also led all players with nine total blocks, while Nelson scored four.
Junior Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) rounded out BSU’s top performers with nine kills, five blocks, five digs and three service aces.
As a team, the Cardinals limited the Loyola attack to a .267 (48-20-105) rate of success, while holding a 14 to 4.5 edge in total blocks. Domenic Dewaele was the Ramblers top attacker with 15 kills, while Mike Bunting added 11. Tommy Becker and Kris Berzins tied for team-high honors with eight digs.
After two quick points from Loyola to open the match, the Cardinals used a Meyer kill and three straight blocks, all including Gasparovic, to pull ahead 4-2. Meyer and Schulte each assists on two of the blocks. From there, the teams traded the next 11 points before Dewaele kill and a Berzins service ace gave the guests a 10-9 edge.
After a Meyer kill tied the score at 10, the teams played to a 13-13 stalemate before another Meyer kill and a Loyola attack error gave the Cardinals their two-point advantage back at 15-13. With Ball State maintaining a 22-21 advantage, a kill from Nelson sparked a three-point run pushing the edge to four at 25-21.
The teams traded the next four points, before a block from Gasparovic and Sprague moved the score to 28-23 and forced a Loyola timeout. After a triple block from the Ramblers kept the guests alive, a service error gave BSU frame point at 29-24. Two rallies later, Schulte’s fifth kill of the night ended the game at 30-25.
Offensively, the Cardinals turned in their best overall performance of the season in the opening game, racking up a .731 (21-2-26) team attack percentage. On defense, BSU scored 4.5 team blocks and limited the Ramblers to a .276 (15-7-29) rate of success.
Loyola got off to another fast start in the second stanza, using two kills from Dewaele and one from Mike Morice to pull ahead 3-0. However, Ball State answered with the next five points, using a Gasparovic kill, two Meyer aces, a Schulte kill and a Loyola attack error to claim a 5-3 edge. From there, the teams battled to a 12-12 tie before a Loyola service error and another Meyer ace moved the score to 14-12.
Gasparovic and Sprague followed with back-to-back kills, upping the lead to four at 16-12. Loyola clawed back within two at 22-20, only two see kills from Schulte and Sprague extend the lead back to four at 24-20. A pair of Bunting kills helped the guests rally off four of the next five points, bringing them within one at 25-24.
Several rallies later, a triple block from Meyer, Nelson and Pheister pushed the lead back up to three at 28-25. The Ramblers would not go down without a fight, however, using kills from Bunting and George Kamberos to pull back within one at 28-27. A Nelson kill on the next play gave BSU game-point, while a Loyola attack error two rallies later ended the game at 30-28.
The Cardinals won the game despite getting out-hit .355 (21-6-41) to .275 (16-5-40) in the frame. After the teams combined for just eight digs in the opening game, Loyola collected 18 in the second game compared to 11 for Ball State.
It was BSU’s turn to jump out to an early lead in the third game, as kills from Meyer bookended a 4-1 start for the 15th-ranked Cardinals. Loyola would battle back, however, capitalizing on several Ball State errors to eventually tie the score at nine. With the score deadlocked at 12, a Sprague kill and a block from Schulte and Nelson gave the Cardinals a two-point lead at 14-12.
Moments later another Ball State block, from Pheister and Nelson, followed by a Gasparovic kill upped the advantage to 18-15 and led to a Ramblers timeout. Loyola answered again, tying the game at 22, and from there, the score moved to 24-24.
A Nelson kill and back-to-back Gasparovic blocks helped BSU pull ahead 27-24, only to see Loyola answer with the next two points, moving the score to 27-26. Two Gasparovic kills over the next three plays gave BSU match-point at 29-27, while a block from Gasparovic and Schulte sealed the victory at 30-28.
Ball State finished the night with a .220 (17-8-41) attacking percentage in the final game, while limiting Loyola to a .143 (12-7-35) mark.