COLUMBUS, Ohio – – The Ball State men’s volleyball team used a complete team effort to rally from two games down to defeat Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association preseason favorite and No. 12-ranked Lewis 3-2 (27-30, 21-30, 30-25, 31-29, 15-12) in the semifinal round on the 2009 MIVA Tournament Thursday evening at Ohio State’s St. John Arena.

   With the win, the Cardinals advance to the tournament championship match for the second straight season, where they will face the winner of the No. 11 Ohio State vs. Loyola semifinal contest.

   “After the first two games, I was hoping our team would show up in the third set and challenge Lewis,” said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. “After we found a lineup that worked, we were able to come to life. I give a lot of credit to Lee Meyer and J.D. Gasparovic for coming off the bench and making some big momentum plays for us in the final three games. Their play helped us recover from the poor start and put the pressure back on Lewis.”

   Lee Meyer (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller H.S.) blasted a season-high ten kills in the final three games, while adding three digs, two blocks and hitting a match-best .533 (10-2-15). J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.), who had missed the last three matches due to illness, also tagged 10 kills, while adding two blocks and a .526 (10-0-19) attack percentage.

   “I also thought we did a great job of gutting it out in game four,” added Walton. “After Lewis made their big run to take a 28-27 lead, our guys stepped up and made some big plays. Overall, I am thrilled we get to play one more match this weekend. Now we are in energy conservation mode. We need to rest up for Saturday.”

   The Cardinals, who improved to 18-9 with the win and to 11-0 in matches where they are not ranked, were led at the attack line by Todd Chamberlain (Louisville, Ky./Trinity H.S.) and Andy Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) who each blasted 12 kills. Nelson also finished the contest with a match-best six total blocks, while Chamberlain added nine digs and a block assist.

   In the backcourt, BSU libero Billy Ebel (Lenexa, Kan./Bishop Miege H.S.) collected a career-high 22 digs, which ties as the third-highest single match total in program history. Matt Sprague (Ballwin, Mo./Marquette H.S.) also added double-digit digs with 11.

   Lewis’ Drew Pickering paced all players with 18 kills in the contest, while also adding 12 digs for a double-double.  Nathan Klaas and Billy Sahagian added 15 and 13 kills, respectively, while Nick Perakes and Brian Muesenfechter posted 13 and 11 digs, respectively.

   Lewis, which ended the season with a 21-8 overall record, did manage to out-hit Ball State .189 (63-30-175)-to-.180 (64-35-161), while holding a 13.5-to-9 edge in team blocks. BSU held the advantage in the backcourt, out-digging the Flyers 69-to-55.

   Ball State setter Ethan Pheister (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) finished the match with 52 assists, nine digs and three blocks, while Lewis setter Mike Iandolo handed out 51 assists and tallied seven digs and five total blocks.

   After Pickering, the 2009 MIVA Player of the Year, opened the match with a kill for the Flyers, the Cardinals were able to capitalize on three Lewis errors and a blocks assist from Pheister and Matt McCarthy (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville North H.S.) to take a 4-2 advantage. Lewis rallied to tie the set at five, before back-to-back markers from McCarthy and an attack error gave BSU an 8-5 lead.

   With Ball State maintaining a 12-9 lead, a pair of kills from Pickering in a 4-1 Lewis run tied the set at 13. Dominic Spadavecchio (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd H.S.) followed with three straight kills to help the Cardinals regain their three-point edge at 16-13. However, Lewis was able to battle back and tie the set at 20, before taking their first lead since the 2-1 mark, at 21-20, on a triple block from Alex Vigansky, Iandolo and Pickering.

   After a Ball State timeout, an attack error momentarily stopped the Flyers, but Lewis answered with the next four points and went on to reach game point at 29-23 on a kill from Chris Biscardi. The Cardinals tried to make a run thanks to kills from Nelson and Marcus Imwalle (Maria Stein, Ohio/Marion Local H.S.), a Lewis attack error and a Nelson solo block. However, the Lewis lead was too much for Ball State to overcome, as a Pickering kill ended the game at 30-27.

   The Flyers were able to carry over the momentum early in the second frame, as they scored the first four points, thanks in part to a pair of markers from Klaas. Despite two kills from Nelson, Lewis was able to pull ahead by six at 8-2 after a pair of Pickering kills forced BSU to call its first timeout.

   Imwalle used and overpass and a blast at the net to score kills on the next two plays, but Ball State was never able to find its rhythm in the game, dropping the set 30-21.

   In the third set, the teams traded the lead several times through the first 14 points, only to play to a 7-7 tie. A kill from Gasparovic and a Lewis attack error broke the tie and helped the Cardinals play to a 9-7 advantage. Moments later, the Cardinals pulled ahead by three at 12-9 off another Gasparovic marker followed by an attack error.

   While the Flyers responded with the next four points to take a 13-12 lead, a block assists from Sprague and Nelson, followed by another Nelson kill, helped the Cardinals regain the momentum as they went on a 5-1 run to pull ahead 17-14. Lewis answered with a 5-0 run of its own to take an 18-17 lead.

   A Lewis service error following a BSU timeout tied the game at 18, before a block and pair of kills from Gasparovic helped the Cardinals pull ahead 21-19. Ball State went on to build a four-point lead moments later on a Meyer kill at 25-21.

   The Flyers scored the next three points, but the Cardinals were not done, answering with three straight kills – including two from Meyer – to reach set point at 29-24. After a Pickering tally mark, Nelson ended the game for the Cardinals at 30-25 with his fourth smash to the hardwood in the set.

    Game four opened with the teams battling to a 3-3 deadlock, before a Klaas kill and BSU attack error led to a 6-2 run for the Flyers and forced the Cardinals to utilize their first timeout trailing 9-5. The break did its trick, as BSU answered the challenge with a 5-1 run to tie the game at 10. Ball State went on to take the lead at 13-12, while a Chamberlain ace and kill moved the score to 15-12.

    After a kill from Iandolo, a smash from Meyer and a Flyers attack error forced the Lewis to call their first break of the game trailing 17-13. Pickering scored a pair of kills out of the break, only to be rejected by Eric Schulte (Shorewood, Wis./Shorewood H.S.) and Nelson on his next swing, moving the score to 18-15.

   The Cardinals would double their lead to six at the 24-18 off a Chamberlain kill followed by a pair of Lewis errors. The lead remained six at 26-20, before a 6-1 run from the Flyers forced Ball State to use their second timeout. Lewis added the next two points after the break before a Schulte kill stopped their momentum. However, a kill from Sahagian on the next rally gave the Flyers the first match point of the night at 29-28.

   Ball State was determined to push the match to five, however, as a quick set to Nelson and a block assist from Nelson and Pheister gave BSU game point at 30-29. The frame ended on the next play when a Pickering attack landed several feet past the end line to give the Cardinals the set at 31-29.

   After the teams played to a 4-4 tie to open the fifth game, a kill from Meyer, a service ace from Mark Termion (Winfield, Ill./Wheaton North H.S.) and a Lewis line violation gave the Cardinals a 7-4 advantage. Schulte followed with a kill, giving BSU an 8-4 edge at the court switch. The Flyers were able to battle within two at 9-7, only to see kills from Meyer and Nelson push the lead back to four at 11-7.

   A Sahagian kill helped the Flyers draw within two again at 13-11, only to see a Chamberlain kill give BSU its first match point at 14-11. After a Pickering kill gave the serve back to the Flyers, a pivotal service error ended the game at 15-12 and the match at 3-2 in favor of the Cardinals.