MUNCIE, Ind. - - The Ball State men's volleyball team continued its dominance in the battle of I-69, scoring a 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 34-32) sweep of Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association rival IPFW Saturday evening at Worthen Arena.
The win was Ball State's 10th consecutive in the series and seventh straight in Worthen Arena over its in-state rival. The victory also moves the Cardinals to 8-5 (2-3 MIVA) this season, while dropping the Mastodons to 7-6 (1-2 MIVA).
For the fourth straight match, junior outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest) paced the Ball State offense, this time racking up 14 kills and hitting for a .321 (14-5-28) rate of success. He also tied teammate sophomore libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral) for match-high honors with eight digs.
Another key component in the Cardinals' victory was its play at the net, as BSU held a 13-5 edge in team blocks. Redshirt sophomore Matt Leske (Highwood, Ill./Highland Park) was Ball State's top blocker, with a career-high eight block assists.
Sophomore setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central) ran the Ball State offense to a .261 (41-17-92) hitting percentage, while adding five digs, three kills and three block assists.
Junior opposite attacker Greg Herceg (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Ignatius) also had a strong match, blasting seven kills and three service aces. He also tallied four blocks and a pair of digs.
IPFW's Ivan Matos led all players with 20 kills and was the only Mastodon to reach double figures. JW Kieckhefer tied for match-high honors with eight digs.
In addition to out-blocking the Mastodons, the Cardinals held them to a .208 (47-25-106) hitting effort. BSU also held a 31-30 edge in digs and a 4-2 advantage in aces.
IPFW played to a 20-15 lead in the opening set, only to see a kill from freshman outside attacker Shane Witmer (Naperville, Ill./Naperville North) and a pair of Herceg ace help tie the score at 20. Herceg would go on to break the tie with a kill, and give BSU set-point at 24-22 on another marker. An IPFW attack error on the next rally ended the frame at 25-22.
Ball State held a similar 20-15 lead in the second stanza, only to see the guest battle within two at 22-20. However, kills from McIlvaine and Wrather helped BSU reach set-point at 24-21. After a BSU attack error, another blast from Wrather ended the game at 25-22.
The Cardinals looked poised to close out the match, reaching match-point at 24-22 after a kill from Wrather. Unfortunately, three straight BSU errors gave the Mastodons their first set-point of the night. Luckily, a service error followed and the teams would battle to a 32-32 stalemate. With the match on the line, back-to-back IPFW attack errors ended the third frame (34-32) and the match (3-0).
The Ball State men's volleyball team returns to action next Friday, when it hosts Mount Olive in a 7:30 p.m. non-conference showdown at Worthen Arena. A match versus park will follow on Saturday in another 7:30 p.m. first serve.