FAIRFAX, Va. - - Head coach Joel Walton earned his 250th career victory by leading the Ball State men's volleyball team to a thrilling 3-2 (20-25, 25-19, 25-18, 22-25, 15-13) victory over George Mason Saturday evening at GMU's RAC.
Walton, who is two matches into his 14th season leading the Cardinal and White, upped his career record to 250-137 (.646) with the victory as BSU evened its 2012 record to 1-1.
In the win, sophomore middle blocker Kevin Owens (Fishers, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) blasted a career-high 10 kills while hitting for a career-best .529 (10-1-17) attack percentage. He also collected three block assists.
Redshirt junior right side attacker Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago H.S.) led all attackers with 16 kills. Hartley also connected for a .243 (16-7-37) hitting mark, while earning five digs and a block.
Junior outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) finished one dig shy of a double-double, blasting 12 kills to go along with nine digs.
Freshman outside attacker Shane Witmer (Naperville, Ill./Naperville North H.S.) turned in a strong performance on defense, racking up a career-high 10 digs to go along with two blocks; one solo and one assists. Redshirt sophomore libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.) tied for match-high honors with 15 digs.
Sophomore setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) dished out 44 assists, while collecting seven kills, six digs and five blocks (two solo and three assists).
Jonathan Lutz led the George Mason attack with 11 kills, while Piotr Dabrowski threw up a match-best 11 blocks. Max McFarland led the Patriots with 15 digs.
Ball State finished the match with a .183 (54-28-142) to .173 (49-26-133) hitting edge, while out-digging GMU 51-46. Mason held a 17-10 advantage in team blocks.
With the Cardinals holding a slim 12-11 advantage in the opening set, a kill and ace from GMU's Joe Norton sparked a 4-1 run for the hosts and helped give them a 15-13 lead. Ball State drew within one at the 18-17 mark, only to see the Patriots post seven of the final 10 points to win the frame 25-20 on a BSU service error.
Ball State responded with four of the first five points in the second game, before pulling ahead by 10 points at the 19-9 mark. GMU closed the gap to five, at 20-15, only to see BSU reach set point five rallies later after a Patriots service error pushed the score to 24-16. Mason scored the next three points, before another service error ended the frame at 25-19.
George Mason held a 15-14 lead in the third stanza, before four straight BSU points forced the guests to call timeout trailing 18-15. The Patriots scored three of the next five points, cutting that BSU edge to 20-18, before a blast from Owens gave the Cardinals the momentum and a 21-18 advantage.
A service ace from freshman outside attacker David Ryan Vander Meer (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and a pair of blocks from Witmer helped BSU secure the final four points of the set as they won the game 25-18.
Ball State pulled out to a 10-7 lead in the fourth set, only to see GMU respond with the next four points to pull ahead by one. A service error on the next rally tied the score, and from there, the teams battled to an 18-18 stalemate.
A BSU attack error and a kill from Mason's Michael Kvidahl gave the hosts a 20-18 lead, but the Cardinals would claw back within one point at 22-21. Unfortunately, the Patriots scored the next two points to reach set-point at 24-21. A service error following a BSU timeout kept the guests alive, but a kill from GMU's Lutz ended the set at 25-22 on the next rally.
George Mason kept the momentum going at the start of the fifth game, pulling ahead 3-1. However a pair of errors helped BSU tie the score two rallies later. With BSU trailing 7-6, a GMU attack error and a Wrather service ace gave BSU an 8-7 advantage at the court switch.
GMU scored three of the first four points after the switch, pulling ahead 10-9, only to have kills from Hartley and Witmer help give BSU a 12-11 lead and force George Mason's second timeout. The Patriots tied the score at 13-13, but a Wrather kill and a GMU attack error gave Ball State the 15-13 set win and the 3-2 match victory.
The Ball State men's volleyball team opens the home portion of its 2012 regular season schedule next week with three matches, beginning Wednesday versus Sacred Heart. The Cardinals will then battle this weekend's opponents for a second time when George Mason (Friday) and St. Francis (Saturday) make the return trip to Worthen Arena. All three matches start at 7:30 p.m.