PROVO -- In a match-up of top 10 teams, the No. 5 BYU men's volleyball team displayed significant improvement in sweeping No. 8 Ball State 30-28, 30-26, 30-28. With the win the Cougars ride a three-match win streak and improve to 14-5, while the loss drops the Cardinals to 14-4.
"Ball State is a nice team that came out very well in hitting .500 in the first game," said head coach Carl McGown.
The Cardinals started the match strong and led by as many as three points in the first game. Buoyed with five kills by the Cardinals' Matthew Denmark, BYU trailed 21-24. The Cougars stormed back to tie the game with kills by Mike Wall and Joaquin Acosta, and a triple-block by Wall, Acosta and Rafael Paal to tie the game at 24-24. Then Luka Slabe took hold of the game with four kills to push the Cougars to game point. Slabe then sealed the game with a drop serve that forced Ball State's Tom Tegethoff into an attack error.
The Cougars fell behind early in the second game, and after a Slabe service error they were down 5-8. Behind a varied Cougars attack featuring Wall, Slabe, Acosta, Chris Gorny and Rafael Paal, BYU bulled its way to tie the game at 16-16. Wall put down a kill to give BYU a 17-16 lead, and the Cougars never looked back. With Paal serving the Cougars went on a decisive 4-0 run, as they widened their lead to 21-16 before cruising to the win.
In the third game, BYU held the lead throughout as its relentless attack had Ball State on its heels. With the Cougars up 18-12, the Cardinals mounted a spirited comeback, but they ultimately fell short, as Acosta sealed the match with a kill.
"Tonight I thought we did two things significantly better than we have all year," McGown said. "We've worked hard at getting our middles some more swings, especially for Gorny. We also served better, and got a reasonable amount of serves in."
Gorny had match-high's with six blocks and hit .727 (nine kills on 11 swings). Three Cougars had double digit kills. Slabe led the BYU attack with 15 kills on 28 swings (.357), followed by Wall with 13 kills and Acosta with 11 kills. Carlos Moreno had match-high's with 49 assists and his serving kept the Cardinals off balance as he compiled two service aces.
BSU was led by Josh Zuidema with 10 kills while hitting .563 and Kyle Weindel with 10 kills.
For the match BYU outhit BSU .400 (53 kills with 17 service errors on 90 attack attempts) to .315 (46-17-92)
The Cougars will go for the weekend sweep, as the two teams square again on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Smith Fieldhouse.