FORT WAYNE, Ind. - - The Ball State men’s volleyball team scored a pivotal Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association victory Saturday night with a 3-0 (30-24, 30-26, 30-24) sweep of in-state rival IPFW at the Hilliard Gates Sports Center.
With the win, the Cardinals secure a first-round home match in the upcoming MIVA Tournament, improving to 5-4 in league play, as well as 14-9 overall. IPFW falls to 9-15 (2-8 MIVA) with the loss.
In the victory, Ball State’s junior middle attackers continued to shine with J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) and Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) tying for team-high honors with eight digs apiece. Both middles also hit .537 (8-3-14) for the night, with Nelson adding six block and Gasparovic five.
Senior outside attacker Eric Schulte (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) also had a strong night, adding seven kills a match-high seven total blocks (one solo and six assists).
In the backcourt, BSU senior libero Billy Ebel (Lenexa, Kan./Bishop Miege H.S.) paced all players with 12 digs.
Both offenses struggled during the match, with the Cardinals holding a .194 (37-19-93) to .147 (39-23-109) advantage. BSU also controlled play at the net, with 12.5 blocks compared to seven for the Mastodons. IPFW held a 34 to 32 lead in digs, while BSU served up five aces to IPFW’s zero.
The Mastodon’s Corey Frain led all players with nine kills on the night, while hitting .615 (9-1-13). Elon Fyfield added eight kills in the final game for IPFW, while hitting .727 (8-0-11). Patrick Pinto led the hosts with seven digs.
The instate rivals traded kills for the first six rallies before a BSU error and a kill from Oliver Kook gave the hosts a 5-3 edge. The Cardinals were able to capitalize on a pair of Mastodon errors and tie the set at six, before giving away the next two points with errors of their own. The teams traded two point runs again to push the 10-8 in favor of IPFW.
At this point, the Cardinals came to life as they rallied off the next six points to take control of the set. During the run, Gasparovic collected a kill and a pair of blocks, while Ethan Pheister (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) added an ace in a strong service run. Three more Ball State blocks, two of which included Nelson and Schulte, helped extend the advantage to eight at 21-13.
After a pair of Gasparovic kills helped push the score to 28-21, back-to-back service errors gave BSU game point at 29-22. A Ball State service error and a Darryl Shank kill extended play momentarily, but IPFW’s ninth service error of the frame gave the Cardinals the set at 30-24.
Both offenses struggled in the opening set with IPFW collecting 10 kills to Ball State’s nine. The Cardinals did hold a six-and-a-half to two lead in blocks. Ball State did score a pair of aces to go along with eight service errors.
The second game opened with the teams playing to a 2-2 tie before another IPFW service error, followed by a Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) kill and a block from Nelson and Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) gave Ball State a 5-2 lead and the early momentum. Ball State pulled ahead by as many as four points, including at the media timeout at 15-11.
However, it was IPFW’s turn to make a run at the game, as they scored eight of the next nine points to pull ahead 19-16. Ball State would battle back to tie the set at 21 thanks in part to a pair of Nelson kills and another Pheister ace. After a Mastodon’s timeout, a Dominic Spadavecchio (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.) kill and a Schulte solo block gave the Cardinals the two-point lead back at 23-21.
Shank would rally IPFW back with back-to-back kills, knotting the score at 23. Gasparovic and Matt Sprague (Ballwin, Mo./Marquette H.S.) followed with a pair of kills of their own, moving the score to 25-23. With BSU holding a 27-24 lead, a Frain kill and an attack error cut the gap to one, leading to a BSU timeout.
After the break, it was all Ball State, as a Nelson marker pushed the score to 28-26, while back-to-back Sprague kills gave the Cardinals the game at 30-26. Both teams hit a little better in the game, with BSU recording 15 kills and IPFW 12. Ball State added four blocks in the game, while the Mastodons logged five.
The teams played to a 6-6 tie in the third frame before Nelson logged a kill and an ace, surrounding an IPFW attack error, to force a timeout from the hosts at 9-6. The Cardinals controlled play from there, building a five-point lead at 13-8 after kills from Gasparovic and Sprague.
Several rallies later, a Schulte kill and Pheister’s third ace of the match gave the Cardinals a 20-13 edge. Another Schulte kill gave the Cardinals match-point at 29-22. Three rallies later, the Mastodon’s 23rd service error of the match secured the win for BSU at 30-24.
Both teams found their offense in the final game, with IPFW holding a slim .353 (17-5-34) to .321 (13-4-28) hitting advantage. IPFW added nine more service errors in the game, while BSU scored two more aces and a pair of blocks.
The Ball State men’s volleyball team returns to action Tuesday, when it travels to Lewis for another pivotal MIVA showdown starting at 7 p.m. (CT).