After holding Grand Canyon junior outside hitter Shalev Saada to just three kills in last night's win, Ball State men's volleyball head coach Joel Walton said he expected him to come back motivated and said he was "someone who's not going to back down from this."
Saada's twelfth and final kill of the game gave Grand Canyon a 16-15 lead in the decisive fifth set and his serve on match point put pressure on the Cardinals, giving the Antelopes a 3-2 (20-25, 25-21, 25-23, 20-25, 16-14) upset victory over the No. 11 Cardinals.
A season-high 16.5 total team blocks and a career-high 23 kills from freshman outside attacker Matt Szews weren't enough for the Cardinals (14-5, 6-4 MIVA) as they suffered their first loss to an unranked opponent this season.
Szews' 23 kills were the most by a Cardinals player this season but Walton said the team didn't get enough support from some of the other attackers.
"We didn't ball control as precisely tonight," Walton said. "We didn't really have a left-side presence or a middle presence, it was just too easy for them to know what was going on with our offense."
Ball State statistic leaders:
Kills: Matt Szews — 23
Assists: Connor Gross — 53
Digs: Matt Szews — 9
Service Aces: Matt Szews — 2
Total Blocks: Matt Walsh — 8
After falling behind two sets to one, senior setter Connor Gross said the Cardinals had strong determination to bring themselves back into the match and force a fifth set.
"I think we just kind of turned it on a bit as far as focus," Gross said. "We were able to tune our block a bit and make some more offensive plays."
Ball State finished the night with 21 service errors, including three in the final set, but Walton said that wasn't the team's main issue in the loss.
"I think it was our passing, we just passed a lot of balls too safe tonight," Walton said. "It made it hard for our offense to get more diversified and we just got very predictable on where we were putting the ball."
Grand Canyon brought a significant defensive intensity in tonight's match. The Antelopes finished with a total of 14 team blocks compared to just eight in yesterday's loss.
"They were a little more tenacious on defense tonight," Gross said. "They had a little more heart than last night and a little more focused."
Ball State was also led by senior outside attacker Brendan Surane, who finished with 13 kills, and junior middle attacker Matt Walsh, who finished with nine kills and eight total blocks.
The Cardinals will be playing two neutral site matches next weekend in Columbus, Ohio, against No. 6 UC Irvine and UC San Diego.
Gross said tonight's loss just gives the Cardinals more determination for next week's matches.
"We have to use this as fuel to come out strong next week against Irvine and San Diego," Gross said.