No. 15 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (12-10, 3-4 MIVA) held its annual Senior Night Saturday, but it was a junior in outside attacker Matt Szews’ season-high 21 kills that propelled the Cardinals to a 3-1 comeback victory over Penn State.
“We played good backcourt defense, had 47 digs and we out-blocked [Penn State],” Walton said. “I’m real happy for two wins this weekend at home against two good EIVA opponents. I think our guys gutted out and got a good win tonight.”
After finishing with a combined 43 kills at last weekend’s Outrigger Tournament in Honolulu, Szews’ offense has been nothing but dominant for the Cardinals. The Cardinals are now riding a four-match win streak at Worthen Arena.
Szews said he’s “happy” with his recent individual efforts. However, he is not completely “satisfied.”
“I feel like I kind of took a little pressure off some of my other players tonight,” Szews said. “Sometimes, it didn’t work out the way I wanted to, but I tried to be as consistent as I could with my serving, attacking and digging.”
Walton said he wants to see improved serving from Szews and his team as a whole, but he continues to hold tremendous trust in his leadership both on the court.
“[Szews’] 21 kills tonight were really important,” Walton said. “He hit some really nice swings and hit some good kills late in the match to help us hold [Penn State] off.”
Set one saw neither team hold a lead of two points or more. However, the Nittany Lions took the first, 25-23, off a kill by freshman outside hitter Brett Wildman.
The Cardinals took set two, 25-18, to even the match.
“After the first, we did a much better job offensively,” Walton said. “The serving for both teams tonight was really bad, but we did get a few more aces out of our serves.”
Heading into the third, the Cardinals went on to outhit the Nittany Lions .333 to .036 to take set three.
The Cardinals trailed the Nittany Lions late in set four, 21-18. However, a five-point run led by two service aces from freshman outside attacker Kaleb Jenness lead the Cardinals over the Nittany Lions in the fourth, 25-23. The Cardinals finished the match with six service aces.
Walton said he was pleased with Jenness’ efforts late in the match. He said his decision to put Jenness in was based on a conversation with assistant coach Jim Palilonis.
“We were down late in the fourth, and we worked our way back in with Jenness coming off the bench,” Walton said. “I think Ben [Chinnici] was getting to a point where he was passing ok, but he wasn’t putting anything away. We needed somebody at that point to put the ball away, and Kaleb did that.”
Contact Connor Smith with any comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @cnsmithbsu