LORETTO, Pa. - - Despite surviving a pair of match points in the third set, the Ball State men's volleyball team could not pull off a miraculous comeback victory, suffering a 3-2 (25-18, 25-19, 28-30, 22-25, 15-10) setback in its 2012 season opener Friday night at St. Francis.
After losing the first two frames, the Cardinals (0-1) found themselves down to their last point twice in the third set (25-24 and 28-27), only to battle back and win the frame 30-28. BSU went on to score a 25-22 win in the fourth game, before falling just short in the fifth frame.
Junior outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) paced the Ball State attack with 14 kills, while hitting for a team-high .385 (14-4-26) rate of success.
Redshirt junior right side attacker Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago H.S.) also posted double-digit kills for the Cardinals with 11.
In just first collegiate match since the 2010 season, redshirt sophomore middle attacker Matt Leske (Highwood, Ill./Highland Park H.S.) tagged eight kills for the Cardinals, while tying sophomore setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central H.S.) for team-high honors with five block assists.
McIlvaine dished out 40 assists to help lead the Ball State offense to a .234 (50-24-111) rate of success, while also collecting four kills.
Sophomore libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Carmel H.S.) added a team-high six digs, while redshirt freshman outside attacker Matt Sutherland (Rochester, N.Y./Penfield H.S.) and senior transfer outside attacker Jeff Aucoin (Brighton, Mass./New Hampshire) scored four and three kills, respectively, in their BSU debuts.
St. Francis' (1-0) Logan Patterson paced all players with 16 kills, while Alex Kane and John Skarupa added 15 and 13 kills, respectively. Skarupa also earned match-high honors with a .579 (13-2-19) hitting mark and six total blocks.
The Red Flash finished the match with a .368 (61-22-106) hitting percentage, while out-digging BSU 28 to 18. SFU also held a 12-8 edge in blocks.
The Cardinals opened the match with a kill from Wrather and a McIlvaine ace to pull ahead 2-0. However, a 7-3 SFU run gave the hosts a 7-5 lead they would not relinquish the rest of the set. Trailing 11-7, BSU battled back within one, at 11-10, only to see the Red Flash score six of the next seven points. Saint Francis went on to win the frame 25-18 on a kill from Patterson.
The hosts scored five of the first six points in the second game and never looked back, winning 25-19. BSU got as close as four points, at 22-18 thanks to a Wrather kill, only to have SFU rattle off three of the final four points.
The teams played to a 13-13 stalemate in the third game, before a 7-3 run gave Ball State a 20-16 edge late in the set. St. Francis battled back, climbing back within one at 22-21. Two kills from Wrather over the next three rallies gave BSU its first set-point of the night at 24-23, only to have two kills from SFU's Skarupa give the hosts match-point at 25-24.
A service error helped the Cardinals keep the set alive, while a Wrather ace gave the guests their second set point. A BSU service error followed, and from there the teams played to a 28-28 deadlock. A block from McIlvaine and Leske gave BSU its fourth set-point at 29-28, while a SFU attack error ended the set at 30-28 and helped BSU force a fourth frame.
St. Francis rebounded with five of the first six points of the fourth game, only to have BSU answer back and tie the score at 6-6. BSU took its first lead of the game at 8-7 and extended the edge to three points, at 11-8, thanks to a Wrather kill and a pair of SFU attack errors. The Red Flash eventually evened the score at 14-14, only to have Ball State post the next three points.
The Ball State lead remained three at the 21-18 mark after a McIlvaine kill, but St. Francis would pull back within one at 22-21 on a Ryan Williams kill. Sutherland answered with a kill for the Cardinals and Ball State went on to score three of the final four points, winning the set 25-22 on a Leske marker.
The Red Flash started strong again in the fifth game, pulling ahead 3-1. With BSU trailing 5-3, a Wrather blast and a SFU attack error tied the score at 5-5. However, a Patterson kill gave the hosts some momentum as they played to a 12-8 tie and forced BSU to use both its timeouts.
BSU drew within two points after its second timeout, thanks to a pair of St. Francis errors, only to have the hosts score the final three points to win the frame 15-10 and the match 3-2.
The Ball State men's volleyball team concludes its season-opening two-match road trip Saturday, with a 7 p.m. first serve at George Mason.