MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State (9-6) men's volleyball team avenged an earlier loss to George Mason (11-6) with a 3-1 (25-20, 25-27, 25-11, 25-17) victory over the Patriots in non-conference action Saturday night at Worthen Arena.
"At times, there were a lot of different guys on our team who played well tonight," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. "I am a little disappointed we did not put the match away in three, giving away a 24-21 lead in the second game, but I am pleased overall that our guys showed a steady performance. We added a different serving plan tonight, and I thought it worked really well against George Mason."
Leading the charge for the Cardinals in the victory was sophomore opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio./St. Ignatius H.S.) who recorded his first career double-double with match and career-highs of 13 kills and 13 digs. He also finished the night with three block assists and an ace.
"I am most excited for Greg's 13 digs," said Walton. "That area of his game has not been at a strong enough level. We have been working on his digging and tonight's performance was a big improvement."
Also finishing the night with double-digit kills for the Cardinals was senior middle blocker Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) , who blasted 11 to go along with a team-high six total blocks (one solo and five assists). He also produced a .391 (11-2-23) hitting mark.
Off the bench, sophomore Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) tagged seven kills and served up a pair of aces in two sets, while senior outside attacker Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.) added five kills, four digs and a match-best .833 (5-0-6) hitting effort in the final two games.
In addition to Herceg's match-high 13 digs, senior outside attacker Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) collected a season-high 12 digs, while redshirt freshman libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) added 11. Meyer also posted seven kills and five block assists, both of which tie season-highs, while Rouse recorded his first career kill in the third game.
George Mason's attack was led by Eric Lucas and Mark Jones who each collected 11 kills. At the net, Charlie Swingle added a match-best 10 total blocks (two solo and eight assists). Brandon Joyner tallied a team-high 12 digs.
For the match, the Cardinals out-hit the Patriots .255 (58-23-137) to .115 (42-25-148). In what was a defensive battle at times, both teams finished well above their season averages for digs, with BSU collecting 67 and GMU earning 48. George Mason held a slim 13.5 to 12 edge in team blocks, while BSU out-aced the guests seven to two.
The teams played two a 14-14 stalemate in the opening frame before a kill from senior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) sparked a 3-0 run for the Cardinals. George Mason kept the gap at three (21-18), only to have BSU score four of the final six points to win the game 25-20 on a Nelson blast to the hardwood floor.
Game two saw the team's battle to a 17-17 tie before a kill from redshirt junior Dominic Spadavecchio (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.) sparked another late 3-0 run for the hosts. GMU would draw back within one at the 21-20 mark, only to see BSU score three of the next four points to reach game-point at 24-21 off a Herceg kill.
However, the Patriots retaliated with the next four points to hold off the Cardinals and reach their first game point at 25-24 after a Joyner ace. A kill from Nelson helped BSU even the score at 25, but back-to-back blasts from Lucas and Max McFarland allowed the Patriots to complete their comeback and win the frame 27-25.
After the tough second game loss, the Cardinals secured the momentum early in the third, pulling out to a 7-1 lead thanks in part to kills from Meyer, Herceg, Rouse and Wrather. BSU would not look back, going on to win the game 25-11 on another Herceg marker.
The final game was close early, as the teams fought to a 6-6 tie. BSU would take control from there, as an Imwalle kill and a Wrather ace helped BSU pull ahead 8-6. The Cardinals went on to build an eight-point lead at the 18-10 mark, before winning the frame 25-17 on a kill from Imwalle.
The Ball State men's volleyball team returns to action Sunday evening, when it hosts Sacred Heart for a 6 p.m. first serve at Worthen Arena. Admission to the match is free.