“Step two out of three is here,” fifth-year middle blocker Felix Egharevba said.
After winning last year’s Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Tournament, the No. 10 team in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, Ball State Men’s Volleyball has a chance to repeat after their sweep of Lewis in the semifinal round Wednesday.
The Cardinals (20-8, 11-3 MIVA), who are the No. 1 seed in the tournament after winning the regular season championship, got one over on the No. 4 seed Flyers (17-13, 7-7 MIVA), who were the only MIVA team to defeat Ball State at home this season.
“They [Lewis] cover a lot of ground and they’re a pretty tall and long team,” head coach Donan Cruz said. “They play under a coach [Dan Friend] who is a competitor and wants to win. A lot of programs that are performing at a high level have coaches that establish a culture and a mindset and that is where you have to walk in and know you have to be ready to compete.”
While the Cardinals controlled most of the match, Lewis was able to match the intensity and forced Ball State to earn every point, sometimes through lengthy rallies.
“The longer those rallies, you know, if you win it is great but it can be extremely exhausting when you lose points like that,” Cruz said. “They were losing some of those long rallies, you [Lewis] kinda just start losing focus and in the middle part, the 15-13s, is where we were able to make some of those runs.”
Throughout the first two sets, the Cardinals capitalized off of 13 errors that were committed by the Flyers and the defense held up by denying Lewis five points off of blocks.
Ball State also had a higher hitting percentage through the first set, with a .345 hitting percentage to the Flyer’s .097.
At the start of the third set, momentum seemed to be swinging in favor of the Flyers, but a late surge fueled by Egharevba and second-year outside attacker Tinaishe Ndavazocheva propelled the Cardinals to the win.
“Trusting our training and trusting our ability in tight moments [is important],” Egharevba said. “Staying composed is something this team has done a really good job of this time of year so I was happy to see that…we locked in and we stayed focused and we executed.”
The No. 3 seed in the MIVA Tournament, Ohio State, awaits Ball State in the championship game Saturday at 7 p.m.