MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State (10-6) men's volleyball team rallied from down 9-2 in the fifth game for a 16-14 final frame victory in a 3-2 (23-25, 25-13, 20-25, 25-14, 16-14) win over Sacred Heart (7-5) Sunday evening in non-conference action at Worthen Arena.
"Overall, I thought our team was flat tonight," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. "That is something we have to solve, because at the end of the season we are going to have to play on some back-to-back nights and do well in both matches. I am a little disappointed in our intensity level tonight. We need to play a lot more focused from start to finish."
Sophomore opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio./St. Ignatius H.S.) turned in another solid performance pacing the Cardinals for the fourth straight match with a team-high 12 kills. He also collected seven digs and three block assist.
Senior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) finished the contest with seven kills and a match-best eight total blocks (one solo and seven assists), while senior middle attacker Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) tagged eight kills and earned seven total blocks (two solo and five assists).
Sophomore setter Dan Wichmann (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) guided the Ball State offense to a .250 (49-21-112) hitting mark, dishing out a career-high 39 assists while adding three kills, three digs, three block assists and an ace.
In the backcourt, redshirt freshman libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) led Ball State with nine digs, while BSU held a slim 38 to 37 edge in total digs for the contest.
Led by Enzo Mackenzie's 28 kills, Sacred Heart finished the match with a .105 (56-40-153) attacking percentage, with Jason Kinney also collecting double-digit kills with 11. Pioneers' libero Craig Harvey paced all players with 11 digs.
With Ball State holding a 21-19 edge in the opening frame, two Mike Komlanc kills surrounding a Bradley Borsay service ace, helped Sacred Heart rally to take a 22-21 advantage. Another Borsay ace extended the lead to two at 23-21. From there, the teams traded the final four points with a Mackenzie kill ending the frame at 25-23.
The teams played to a 4-4 stalemate in the second game, only to have a 9-1 run give the Cardinals control of the set. The serving of senior outside attacker Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.) was key in the run, as he blasted a pair of service aces and kept the Pioneers off balance. Ball State went on to win the game 25-13 on a Gasparovic service ace.
With the score tied at 11-11 early in the third game, two kills and a solo block from Mackenzie gave the guests from Fairfield, Conn., the momentum and a 14-11 edge. Ball state would get as close at 20-19, only to have Sacred Heart score five of the final six points to win the game 25-20.
The Cardinals surged out to a 6-1 lead in the fourth game, and never looked back, taking their first 10-point lead at 17-7. With BSU leading 22-14, freshman Kevin Owens (Fishers, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) entered the contest and proceeded to score back-to-back kills and a block to end the frame at 25-14.
Sacred Heart started the fifth game on a hot streak, pulling ahead 9-2 thanks to four of Mackenzie's match-high 28 kills. Ball State answered with a 10-3 run of their own to tie the score at 12. Gasparovic was a main catalyst in the run, collecting three kills and a pair of block assists.
With the score tied at 13, a Sacred Heart service error gave BSU the first match-point, only to have a Mackenzie blast even the score at 14. Nelson found the floor on the next rally to give Ball State its second match point, while a BSU triple blocked ended the set at 16-14 and the match at 3-2.
"Tonight's match was weird because there were long runs by both teams through the first four games," added Walton. "You don't expect there to be that kind of a run in the fifth game, but they started with one to pull ahead 9-2 and we followed with one of our own to get back into the game. I am pleased we got to a point where we were able to make some plays and work our way back to win the game."
The Ball State men's volleyball team returns to action Friday with a pivotal Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association match at No. 5 Ohio State. Match time is set for 7 p.m.