UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - - The Ball State (11-8) men's volleyball team saw its six-match non-conference winning streak come to an end Friday evening with a 3-0 (25-18, 36-34, 25-17) setback at No. 9 Penn State (16-5).
Despite the loss, the Cardinals turned in a strong effort in the middle of the court with senior middle attackers Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls) and J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) combining for 14 kills and a .591 (14-1-22) hitting mark.
Nelson led the duo with eight kills and a .727 (8-0-11) attack percentage, while also recording a match-best six total blocks, including a pair of solo stuffs. Gasparovic added six kills and a .455 (6-1-11) hitting effort, as well as a pair of block assists.
Sophomore opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) led the Ball State attack with nine kills, while senior outside attacker Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.) added a team-high seven digs.
Joe Sunder paced the Penn State attack with 17 kills and a .542 (17-4-24) hitting percentage. He also collected a match-high eight digs.
As a team, Penn State held a .316 (49-18-98) to .195 (34-19-77) hitting advantage, while also capitalizing on 10 aces compared to two for the Cardinals. Ball State held a 24 to 20 lead in digs and a 10 to seven edge in team blocks.
The Nittany Lions took control of the first set early, scoring six of the first seven points with three coming on service aces. With BSU trailing 11-5, a Herceg kill and three PSU errors helped the Cardinals battle back within two at 11-9. Moments later, a Gasparovic service ace cut the gap to one at 14-13.
The lead remained one at the 16-15 mark following a Nelson kill. However, the Nittany Lions went on to score nine of the final 12 points to win the game 25-18.
Penn State looked poised to pull away in the second game, playing to a 19-13 advantage. However, two kills and a block assist from redshirt junior outside attacker Dominic Spadavecchio (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.) helped BSU rally back and tie the set at 21. A Herceg kill would give Ball State the first set point at 24-23, but a Sunder kill tied the score at 24.
Ball State had the next two chances to win the game, but PSU battled back each time to tie the score at 26. From there, the teams played to a 34-34 stalemate, with BSU having two more chances to win the game. Unfortunately, a Jace Olsen kill and a block from Nick Turko and Edgardo Goas helped the Nittany Lions win the game at 36-34.
The teams played to a 6-6 tie to open the third game before a three-point run gave the hosts a 9-6 edge. A Herceg kill and a PSU service error gave BSU two of the next three points, pulling the Cardinals within two at 10-8. However, the Nittany Lions answered with the next four points and controlled play from there, winning the set 25-17.
The Ball State men's volleyball team returns to action Saturday with a 7 p.m. first serve at Saint Francis.