BRISTOL, Tenn. - - The Ball State men's volleyball team saw its three-match winning streak come to an end Sunday afternoon with a 3-2 (22-25, 25-22, 16-25, 27-25, 16-14) setback to Lees McRae in a match played at King College's Student Center.
Despite solid play from the team's middles, the Cardinals saw the Bobcats rally from down 2-1 to win the match and improve to 15-8. Ball State fell to 14-9 with the loss.
Senior middle attacker Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) paced the Ball State offense with 14 kills, while collecting a match-best .458 (14-3-24) hitting percentage. He also chalked up a pair of blocks and a service ace.
Fellow senior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) also had a solid match, pacing all players with seven total blocks (two solo and five assists), while adding 10 kills and a .444 (10-2-18) attack mark.
Sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) also tallied double-digit kills in the match with 10, while senior outside attacker Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) added nine.
In the backcourt, redshirt freshman Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) tied for match-high honors with 10 digs.
Chad Mercado, who entered the week ranked third in the nation with a 4.69 kills-per-game average, paced all players with a match-high 24 kills. Juan Ramirez led the Bobcats with 10 digs.
As a team, the Cardinals held a slim .194 (55-28-139) to .166 (56-32-145) attacking edge in the match, while out-blocking LMC 11.5 to 9. Lees McRae earned a 40 to 39 advantage in digs.
Led by a pair of kills from both Mercado and setter Randy Ramirez, the Bobcats jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the opening game, forcing an early Ball State timeout. Back-to-back kills from Meyer helped draw BSU back within two at 10-8, only to have a pair of errors allow Lees McRae to reclaim a four-point lead at 12-8.
With the Cardinals trailing 15-10, a Nelson blast and a pair of Wrather markers helped BSU close within one at 16-15. Trailing 19-17, a kill from sophomore opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius H.S.) and back-to-back LMC attack errors helped BSU pull ahead for the first time at 20-19. Ball State went on to reach game-point at 24-21, before winning the frame two rallies later at 25-22 on a Nelson marker.
The Bobcats scored the first three points of the second game and built a 13-7 advantage. The lead remained six at the 17-11 mark, before a pair of kills from redshirt sophomore opposite attacker Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago H.S.) gave BSU the next two points and a little momentum.
Several rallies later a kill from Meyer and a LMC attack error helped the Cardinals pull within two at 20-18. With Ball State trailing 23-19, back-to-back blocks and a Lees McRae attack error cut the gap to one at 23-22. Unfortunately, a BSU service error and a kill from Mercado ended the game at 25-22.
With the Cardinals trailing 8-7 in the third frame, a Meyer kill followed by a pair of Wrather markers gave BSU a 10-8 edge. The Bobcats answered with a three of the next four points, tying the score at 11. From there, however, it was all Ball State, as the Cardinals pulled ahead 19-13 before winning the frame 25-16 on a Hartley kill.
The Bobcats held a 9-6 lead in the fourth frame, before a Gasparovic kill and three straight LMC attack errors gave Ball State the momentum in the frame. While a BSU attack error tied the score at 10, the Cardinals used kills from Gasparovic and senior outside attacker Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.) to pull ahead 13-10.
Meyer followed with back-to-back aces, extending the lead to 15-10. Ball State maintained a four-point lead at the 17-13 mark, only to have three straight errors bring LMC within one and force a Cardinals timeout. Two more Ball State errors gave Lees McRae a 19-18 lead.
A Nelson kill on the next play tied the score at 19-19, and from there the teams played to a 25-25 stalemate. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, an attack error and a Ramirez block ended the game at 27-25 and forced a deciding fifth frame.
Ball State looked poised to break away midway through the fifth frame, as a two LMC errors surrounding a Hartley solo block gave the Cardinals a 10-7 lead. Unfortunately, the Bobcats rallied off the next four points to pull ahead 11-10. A Hartley kill tied the score on the next play, and the teams battled to a 13-13 tie from there.
A Lees McRae attack error gave Ball State match point at 14-13, but a timeout from the Bobcats stopped BSU's momentum. After the break, LMC scored the final three points of the match, completing its come-from-behind victory on Mercado's match-best 24th kill of the afternoon.
The Ball State men's volleyball team returns to Worthen Arena next weekend, with it hosts a two-match series versus Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association rival Grand Canyon. The Cardinals and 'Lopes square off at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.