MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State men's volleyball team could not get past a hot Ohio State squad, dropping a 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 28-26) Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association match to the sixth-ranked Buckeyes Friday evening at Worthen Arena.
"After a tough two sets to begin the night, we put ourselves in position to win set three," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. "For this team to mature and get to a point where we are going to win matches at the end of the year, when we get a lead like that we have to finish the game off."
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 6-5 (1-2 MIVA) on the year. Ohio State, who picked up one first place vote in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II Men's Coaches Top 15 Poll, earned their 10th straight win to improve to 10-2 (4-0 MIVA).
After the Buckeyes dominated the opening frame, winning 25-16, the Cardinals turned to sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) for inspiration, and he did not disappoint picking up team-highs of 11 kills and seven digs in the final two sets and nearly led a BSU comeback. Wrather also scored two blocks and an ace, while hitting a team-high .350 (11-4-20).
"Larry has the ability to rise to the moment," said Walton about Wrather's performance. "He loves a scenario where his is on the stage in front of a big crowd. I told the team between games two and three that we have a great crowd and need to get them fired up and feed off their energy. Larry started making some spectacular plays and we saw that."
The Cardinals also turned in another solid effort at the net, out-blocking the Buckeyes 13.5 to 12. Senior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) collected a match-high six total blocks (one solo and five assists), while fellow senior middle blocker Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) and freshman setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) each collected five block assists.
Ohio State was paced offensively by Shawn Sangrey's match-high 15 kills, while John Klanac added 11. Sangrey also collected a match-best nine digs, while Grayson Overman tied Gasparovic for match-high honors with six total blocks.
For the match, Ohio State held a .224 (41-19-98) to .143 (32-20-84) advantage in hitting, while serving up seven aces compared to one for the Cardinals.
The teams played to a 6-6 tie in the opening frame, before a 7-2 Ohio State run gave the guests from Columbus the lead for good in the set. Ball State would get no closer than four points, before dropping the set 25-16 on a Mik Berzins service ace.
With Ball State holding a 12-11 edge in the second game after a Wrather kill, a Klanac kill and a pair of Sangrey aces gave OSU the next three points and the momentum. BSU would stay within two points at 22-20, only to see the Buckeyes score three of the final four points to win the frame 25-21 on a Berzins kill.
The Cardinals were poised to extend the match, as the held a 16-10 edge in the third game after another Wrather blast to the Worthen Arena hardwood floor. OSU would battle back within two, at 16-14, only to see BSU extend its lead back to four at 20-16 after a kill from redshirt junior Dominic Spadavecchio (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.).
Unfortunately, Ohio State scored the next three points, and eventually tied the frame at 22-22. BSU would reach set-point at 24-23 after a kill from Nelson, but a costly service error knotted the score at 24. Another Spadavecchio kill gave BSU a second shot to win the set at 25-24, only to have OSU rattle off the next two points.
With the sixth-ranked Buckeyes leading 26-25, an attack error from Berzins kept the Cardinals alive. However, a Sangrey kill and a BSU attack error gave OSU the next two points and the 28-26 final set victory.
The Ball State men's volleyball team returns to action Saturday, when it hosts No. 13 Loyola in another pivotal MIVA showdown at Worthen Arena. Match time is set for 7:30 p.m.