Senior outside attacker Blake Reardon’s effort in the third and fourth sets Saturday was not enough to get the job done for Ball State Men’s Volleyball (8-4, 1-1 MIVA). Dropping their first match at Worthen Arena this season, the Cardinals’ five-match win streak came to an end against No. 6 Lewis (8-5, 2-1 MIVA) in a 3-1 loss.
Heading into Saturday, a balanced offense served as a major focal point in the Cardinals’ prior five matches. However, Lewis outhit Ball State .449-.197 on the night. Redshirt senior outside hitter Ryan Coenen was a force on the Flyers’ front, notching 20 kills while hitting .444.
“They’re a good offensive team, and we didn’t do a good enough job with our serve,” head coach Joel Walton said. “We really had one game where our serve affected them — that was game three. We were able to build some points there, but for most of the night, we were back on our heels.”
The Cardinals struggled to generate offense early in set one. A 6-1 run by the Flyers quickly forced Ball State to take its first timeout. Lewis continued to take advantage of the Cardinals’ offensive woes, taking the set 25-16. Ball State suffered 11 attack errors and hit -.031 in the set.
“When you look at the first set, and we’ve got [Kaleb] Jenness and [Matt] Szews playing really subpar, that’s going to affect our team,” Walton said. “Those are two guys we count on to drive the ship. They weren’t playing well — it puts pressure on the other guys to step up and elevate their level of play.”
Set two began in a more promising fashion for the Cardinals. Both teams were tied at seven apiece until the Flyers went on a 5-0 run. For the second time in as many sets, Lewis had the edge, taking set two 25-17.
Facing a 2-0 deficit for the first time in three weeks, Ball State quickly turned around to begin the third. Led by four kills and two service aces from Reardon, supported by a team hitting percentage of .367, the Cardinals took set three 25-21.
“Blake came in and provided us a good offensive punch,” Walton said. “He’s pushing pretty hard — I like his role, kind of splitting time with Ben [Chinnici]. If Szews isn’t playing well, Blake’s a great option to bring into a match.”
Reardon ended Saturday’s match with nine kills, second on the team behind sophomore outside attacker Kaleb Jenness. He also chipped in defensively with three digs.
“Blake’s a very versatile player for us,” senior setter Jake Romano said. “We can put him in multiple positions, and we know he’s going to do a good job. I thought he did a great job tonight.”
While Reardon continued to keep the Cardinals alive in the fourth, Coenen and the Flyers’ offense was too much for Ball State to handle. Lewis took set four 25-21 to win the match. After winning last season’s Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Championship, the Flyers have now won six of their past seven matches.
“At the end of the day, they’re a good team,” Romano said. “We know they’re a respectable team in our conference. We still have a lot of matches ahead of us — we have great potential. I really believe in this program and team, but tonight, unfortunately, it didn’t go our way.”
Embarking on a five-match road trip, Ball State will be back in action Feb. 21 at Purdue Fort Wayne. The Cardinals do not return home until March 7 when the team welcomes Sacred Heart to Worthen Arena.
Contact Connor Smith with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cnsmithbsu.