“He rises to the occasion,” Ball State Men’s Volleyball head coach Donan Cruz said of sophomore opposite hitter Dyer Ball. “He’s just such a good energy on the court and he’s developing into a great leader.”
Following up a 15-point performance in a five-set loss to Lewis (7-6, 1-1 MIVA) in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) opener, Ball smashed a career-high 18 kills as the Cardinals (6-4, 1-1 MIVA) bounced back against McKendree (5-4, 0-2 MIVA).
“We know that coming after that loss, we had to do some things differently,” Ball said. “I think we served a lot better, played better defense and that helped us come out with the win.”
Ball State started 0-3 in set one before a 4-0 run helped establish a lead early. From there the Cardinals saw out the set to win 25-21 while stifling a late push from the Bearcats. Sophomore setter Jakub Wiercinski played well with Ball State’s rotated lineup in just his second start of the season.
“There were a few misconnections but I think that’s a good point to start and [to] build on that,” Wiercinski said. “We had great energy on the court and on the bench, so yeah, a good game.”
Wiercinski led Ball State with 46 assists and added seven digs and six total blocks. In the second set, the Cardinals came from behind to make the match 2-0 with a 25-23 set win. The Bearcats struck back in set three with a 25-23 win to extend the match.
Set four started close, but Ball State established a lead halfway through and never looked back, claiming the set and match victory with a 25-20 score.
“Our conference is going to be tough and you’ve got to be able to get the ones you can at home,” Cruz said. “McKendree is a good team and they play really, really, really good volleyball. For us to come in and have as clean of a performance, at moments, but more consistent clean, I think [it] was a great thing for us.”
The Cardinals dominated at the net with nine blocks to McKendree’s three. With Ball’s career performance, sophomore outside hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva and graduate student outside attacker Kaleb Jenness backed up the offense with 12 and 11 kills respectively. As a team, Ball State hit .333 to the Bearcats’ .278.
Ball State’s service was also on point, with Jenness landing three, Ball landing two and Wiercinski landing one from the service line. Ball also led the Cardinals with 10 digs.
Now sitting at .500 in conference play, this match was the Cardinals’ last home match in February, as they embark on four straight matches on the road, all conference matches. First will be Loyola Chicago (9-2, 2-0 MIVA) and a familiar face in former outside hitter Nick Martinski.
“I think we just got to sustain what we’re doing,” Cruz said. “I think the trend of our season is we just want to be on an uphill climb and if that’s our trajectory, then we’re in a good place. I know we’ve got a good group of learners otherwise, we could not flip a Thursday loss into a Saturday win. That’s a really big piece of understanding what kind of group we have, they’re resilient and they’re ready to respond, we saw that today."