Team Effort Lifts Ball State Past Grand Canyon

Team Effort Lifts Ball State Past Grand Canyon

 PHOENIX, Ariz. - - The No. 5 seeded Ball State men's volleyball team opened the 2012 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament with a 3-1 (26-24, 15-25, 25-19, 26-24) quarterfinal win at No. 4 seed Grand Canyon's GCU Arena Saturday evening.

With the victory, the Cardinals (14-11) advance to face No. 1 seed Ohio State in a Wednesday semifinal showdown in Columbus, Ohio, at a time to be announced. The Antelopes end their season with a 15-17 overall record.

In the win over GCU, redshirt junior middle attacker Matt Leske (Highwood, Ill./Highland Park) threw up a match-best eight total blocks (three solo and five assists) to help the Cardinals limit the 'Lopes offense to a .156 (49-28-135) attack percentage. He also added six kills and a .556 (6-1-9) attack percentage, while tying for team-high honors with 11.5 points.

On offense, the Cardinals used a balanced attack to secure the win, with five different players tying for team-high honors with eight kills, including redshirt junior Jamion Hartley (North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago) who blasted back-to-back kill to end the opening set.

In the backcourt, sophomore libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral) paced all players with 12 digs, while sophomore setter Graham McIlvaine (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central) added 10 digs to go along with 39 assists for his second double-double of the season.

Grand Canyon's Ben Ponnet paced all players with 11 kills, while Robbie Brannick added 10. Keith Smith paced the GCU backcourt with 10 digs.

After falling behind 10-8 in the opening set, the Cardinals answered with six of the next seven points to pull ahead 14-11. The lead remained three at the 17-14 mark, before back-to-back markers from Hartley moved the score to 19-14. Unfortunately, GCU would battle back within one at 21-20, and eventually tie the score at 23.

A kill from GCU's Taylor Galliano gave the hosts the first set point on the next rally, but sophomore middle attacker Kevin Owens (Fishers, Ind./Cathedral)replied with a kill of his own to keep the Cardinals alive and tie the score at 24. Hartley would then blast two more to kills to give BSU a 26-24 first-set victory.

The teams battled to a 6-6 stalemate early in the second set, but a 6-0 GCU run gave the hosts control of the scoreboard at 12-6. Grand Canyon cruised from there, winning the set 25-15 on a triple block.

The 'Lopes looked poised to run away with the third set as well, pulling out to a 5-1 lead. However, Ball State battled back to tie the score at 10. With the score knotted at 16, the Cardinals capitalized on a pair of Leske blocks to pull out to a 21-16 advantage.

From there, the teams traded the final eight points of the set with the Cardinals winning 25-19 on a service ace from junior setter Dan Wichmann (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove).

Like the opening set, the teams battled back-and-forth to a 23-23 deadlock in the fourth frame. A kill from Smith would give GCU one attempt to force a deciding fifth frame, but a setting error tied the score once again at 25.

Senior transfer outside attacker Jeff Aucoin (Brighton, Mass./New Hampshire) capitalized on the miscue by smashing a kill to give BSU its first match point. BSU would go on to win the frame 26-24, and the match 3-1 on a Grand Canyon attack error.