by Benny Benton
MUNCIE, Ind. – Barton College junior Zach McCalla and freshman Jonathan Novoa-Miralles were both held under double-digit kills for the first time in five matches as the Bulldogs fell to nationally-ranked No. 14 Ball State University in straight sets, 25-14, 25-19, 26-24, Friday night in Worthen Arena.
McCalla paced Barton (6-10) in the loss with nine kills, while Novoa-Miralles collected eight. Freshman Chad Stanback Jr. added five, all of those coming in the first set. Libero Michael McMahon contributed a match-high eight digs and freshman Federico Pagliara handed out 20 assists.
The Cardinals, fresh off a 3-1 victory over No. 13 Ohio State University on Wednesday, improved to 9-5 on the season. Ball State was led by Brendan Surane, who had 10 kills, and Shane Witmer, who added eight. BSU's 2013 All-American, Kevin Owens, had just two kills.
Barton was limited to just 26 total kills in the contest, which matched its second-lowest total of the year. The Bulldogs had produced 57 kills in each of their previous two matches.
The Bulldogs grabbed a very early 6-3 lead in the first set on two kills by Stanback and one by McCalla. Barton trailed by just one, 10-9, following another Stanback spike when the Cardinals went on a 12-2 run to put the set away. At one point in the run, Ball State had blocks on four consecutive points, with Witmer, Owens and Graham McIlvaine each involved in three of them.
Ball State had its best hitting effort of the night in the opening frame, .400, while Barton had its worst, .036. Witmer had five kills in the set without an error in eight attempts.
The Cardinals never trailed in set two, jumping out to a quick 7-2 advantage on a pair of Matt Sutherland kills and a service ace by Hiago Garchet. Still down by five points at 9-4, the Bulldogs stormed back to tie the match at 11-all behind a pair of Novoa-Miralles kills and a pair of blocks by Tanner Medina, one with Novoa-Miralles and the other with Pagliara.
However, a service error and consecutive attack errors by Barton gave Ball State a three-point cushion, and the Bulldogs never got closer than two points again. Surane had four kills in the set for the Cardinals and Sutherland collected three. Novoa-Miralles had three for the Bulldogs.
Ball State had its worst hitting performance of the match in the third set, .147, and three of the errors that helped contribute to that number gave Barton its biggest lead of the match, 11-7. However, the Cardinals quickly pulled the match back into a tie with consecutive kills by Mike Scannell and Surane, followed by consecutive attack errors by Barton.
The Cardinals went in front by three points at 18-15, and still led by that margin at 20-17 when two BSU errors wrapped around a Novoa-Miralles kill tied the match back at 20-all. The two sides tied all the way to 24-all before a Barton service error and a solo block by Surane closed out the match for Ball State.
Barton will play another nationally-ranked program, No. 15 Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Fort Wayne, Ind.