No. 12 Ball State men’s volleyball came out on the attack in front of its home crowd and never let up, making quick work of Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association opponent McKendree in a 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-20) sweep.
After sitting out a match with an ankle injury, Matt Szews was back in the lineup and starred in his usual role, posting a double-double.
“It feels really good [to be back],” Szews said. “There was kind of a silver lining. I got a couple days to kind of recuperate and let my body heal a little bit, and luckily it was a quick-healing ankle, so ... coming back into the first match and having a good one really felt good.”
The first set wasn’t even close. Ball State (16-11, 9-4 MIVA) came out on the attack, scoring six of the match’s first eight points. Senior Mitch Weiler tallied the first three kills of the set for the Cardinals, finishing with four through one game.
“When we don’t pass well, [Weiler] is more of a garbage collector; he’s trying to clean up stuff that we started with a bad pass, and it’s a little bit harder for him to produce,” head coach Joel Walton said. “I think his efficiency tonight was due in large part to our ability to pass a good ball to Jake [Romano] and create opportunities for Mitch to put the ball away.”
Ball State’s lead ballooned to as many as eight points in the first game, but a late McKendree (11-13, 6-7 MIVA) run briefly challenged the hosts. A Ben Chinnici kill finished off the set with Ball State winning by a score of 25-17.
Game two was even more one-sided than the first. Ball State scored the first five points of the set and never looked back. A solo block by Parker Swartz finished the set for the Cardinals and matched the team’s largest lead of the set with a 25-15 win.
“Knowing the stakes of this match, going into next weekend and staying home for the first round of the MIVA playoffs was huge for us,” Weiler said. “So, I think just knowing what went into this match really helped us stay confident and really execute each play throughout the match.”
At the half, Ball State’s wall had totaled 15 block assists and forced McKendree into a .000 hitting percentage. Matt Szews flirted with a double-double through two sets in his return, posting 10 kills and seven digs to pace the team. After holding McKendree to under 20 points in the second set, it was the fifth consecutive set in which Ball State kept an opponent from scoring 20.
“I think our guys were in tune with how they like to attack,” Walton said. “What started our block was we were able to put our serve in some really good places.”
Set three ended closer than it started, and Ball State was yet again on a roll for most of the way. Parker Swartz started things off with a service ace and stayed behind the service line while the Cardinals rattled off the first four points of the game. The lead grew to as much as seven points before McKendree began to fight its way back. The visitors were even a little surprised by that turn of events when the score reached 9-3 as Jared Wilcox shouted, “We got one!”
McKendree eventually took its first and only lead of the match at 17-16, but it was short-lived. Ball State quickly retook control and finished the match with a 25-20 win to complete its second consecutive sweep.
Overall, Matt Szews led the Cardinals with a double-double courtesy of 14 kills and 10 digs.
“It’s pretty critical to get him back in,” Weiler said. “He’s getting healthy, and he’s putting up big numbers for us, which is very critical for our team.”
Weiler was second on the team with nine kills and an efficient .563 hitting percentage. Matt Walsh set the tone on defense with six block assists, while the team finished with 12 total blocks, consistently denying the McKendree attack. Four different Cardinals recorded a service ace.
For McKendree, three different players led the team in kills with five, and the visitors finished with five total blocks.
Ball State will return to Worthen Arena Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. Senior Night matchup with No. 7 Ohio State.