MUNCIE, Ind. - - The 13th-ranked Ball State men's volleyball team advanced to the semifinals of the 2010 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament with a 3-0 (30-28, 30-23, 30-22) sweep of in-state rival IPFW Saturday night at Worthen Arena.
With the win, the fourth-seed Cardinals improve to 19-10 on the year and will travel to No. 1 seed Ohio State (20-7) Wednesday for a 7 p.m. semifinal showdown versus the Buckeyes at St. John Arena.
No. 5 seed IPFW ends the season with a 12-17 overall record after the loss.
In the win, the Cardinals did an excellent job of spreading its offense with four players collecting double-figure kills. Senior Eric Schulte (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) paced all players with 12 kills, marking his fourth straight match with double figure kills. He also added nine digs and four blocks in the win.
BSU's middles also had a strong night, with juniors Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) and J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) blasting 11 kills each. Nelson finished the night with a match-best .600 (11-2-15) attack percentage, while Gasparovic hit .417 (11-1-24) and collected a match-high seven total blocks.
Junior Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) went swing-for-swing with Gasparovic, also finishing with 11 kills and a .417 (11-1-24) attack percentage.
Senior setter Ethan Pheister (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) kept the IPFW defense off balance all night, leading the Cardinals to a .330 (54-18-109) attack percentage with a match-high 45 assists. The effort was the fourth in the last five matches the Cardinals have hit above .300.
In the backcourt, senior libero Billy Ebel (Lenexa, Kan./Bishop Miege H.S.) added a match-best 12 digs, raising his career total to 678. He needs just seven more digs to pass Keith Schunzel's (2001-04) career total of 684 for 10th on BSU's all-time career list.
Led by the Cardinals 11.5 total blocks, the BSU defense limited the Mastodons to a .137 (40-24-117) attacking mark in the contest. Darryl Shank and Elon Fyfield led the guests with 10 kills apiece. Shank also added a team-high 10 digs to finish the season with a double-double.
Ball State started its spread offense early, with three different players recording a kill to give the hosts a 5-3 lead in the opening game. However, the Mastodons answered with the next three points, including two kills from Ivan Matos, to pull ahead 6-5. Nelson snapped the rally with his second kill of the match and from there the teams played to a 9-9 stalemate.
Kills from Gasparovic and Matt Sprague (Ballwin, Mo./Marquette H.S.) helped BSU record the next three points and the Cardinals went on to force an IPFW timeout at 14-10. Unfortunately, four BSU errors and two more Matos kills allowed the Mastodons battle back and reclaim an 18-17 lead. Moments later, a block from Corey Frain and Dan Mader forced BSU to use its first minute break trailing 20-18.
A Gasparovic kill got the Cardinals back within one on the next rally, only to have IPFW answer with three straight leading to BSU's second timeout at 23-19. Trailing 24-21, it was the Cardinals turn to battle back, as a kill from Pheister and two Nelson markers helped BSU tie the game at 26. On the next rally, a triple block from Pheister, Gasparovic and Meyer allowed Ball State to reclaim a 27-26 edge.
Three rallies later, a kill from Schulte gave the Cardinals game point. Schulte and Gasparovic would follow with a frame-winning block assist at 30-28. Ball State hit .317 (20-7-41) in the opening frame, while limiting IPFW to a .205 (14-11-37) rate of success.
While BSU opened the second frame with a 5-1 run, capped by a solo block from Sprague, three kills from IPFW's Oliver Kook helped the guests rally back within one point at 8-7. A kill from Nelson and a pair of Meyer markers helped the Cardinals regain the momentum, as BSU surged to a 15-9 lead forcing IPFW's first timeout of the game.
A block assist from Nelson and Schulte extended the lead to seven at 19-12, only to see IPFW claw back within four at 22-18 on another Matos kill. BSU responded with the next two points, however, and went on to win the game 30-23 on a block assist from Nelson and Pheister.
Ball State's offense continued to roll in the second stanza, connecting for a .448 (16-3-29) rate of success. On the defensive side, BSU limited IPFW to a .081 (14-11-37) mark.
The combatants battled to a 6-6 deadlock in the third game before kills from Meyer bookended a 4-1 BSU run, giving the hosts a 10-7 advantage. Back-to-back kills from Meyer and Schulte extended the Ball State lead to four at 12-8. With BSU leading 15-11, kills from Meyer and Nelson pushed the score to 17-11 and forced an IPFW timeout.
A Pheister kill after the break upped the lead to seven at 18-11, and the Cardinals maintained the margin at 22-15 after a Gasparovic kill. Nelson followed with a marker of his own, extending the advantage to eight at 23-15. Behind a kill and some strong serving from Mader, the guests rallied back within three at 24-21, causing BSU to use both its timeouts.
That was as close as the guest would get, however, as Ball State scored six of the final seven points to win the game 30-22. Meyer connected with Pheister for kills on the last two rallies to give BSU the match victory and send the team to Wednesday's MIVA Tournament semifinal match versus No. 1 seed Ohio State.