by Benny Benton
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Barton College junior Zach McCalla recorded a match-high 17 kills, including seven during a victorious third set for the Bulldogs, but No. 15 Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) proved too strong, claiming the match 3-1 (25-18, 25-17, 23-25, 25-18) Saturday night at the Gates Sports Center.
The loss was the second in a row to a nationally-ranked NCAA Division I opponent on the Bulldogs' visit to Indiana, and dropped Barton to 6-11 on the year. IPFW improved to 10-3.
McCalla's seven kills in the third set came on 12 attempts with no errors for a .583 percentage. As a team, the Bulldogs had one of their best hitting sets of the season, attacking at a .462 clip to force the Mastodons to a fourth frame.
Barton never trailed in the third set. With the frame tied at 2-all, the Bulldogs opened up a small lead with three straight points courtesy of a kill and block by Jonathan Novoa-Miralles and a kill by McCalla.
IPFW closed to within a point on four separate occasions, the last of those at 10-9, before the Bulldogs surged in front by five using a 6-2 spurt that included a kill and two block assists each from McCalla and Ladislav Lelkes.
Still leading by three on set point, 24-21, the Mastodons provided a scare to the Bulldogs, using consecutive kills by Nick Smalter and Eddie Rivera to pull within one, but an IPFW service error wrapped up the set for Barton.
In each of the other three sets, Barton hit less than .100 while the Mastodons hit .241 or better. The Bulldogs led early in set one, 6-3, behind three kills each from Novoa-Miralles and Chad Stanback Jr., and trailed by as little as one point late in the set at 18-17 before three straight attack errors helped IPFW pull away.
IPFW led throughout set two, taking over the frame with a 6-1 run that took the score from 9-8 to 15-9. Andrew Sellan, who shared the team high in kills with 13, had two spikes and a service ace to fuel the spurt.
After losing the third set to the Bulldogs, the Mastodons stormed out of the gate in set four, rolling off the first six points of the frame. Ramon Burgos, collected one of his 13 kills and a pair of block assists during the run.
Omar Rivera, one of the nation's top assist leaders, had 39 in the win for the Mastodons. Barton's national leader in digs, Mike McMahon, collected a match-high 12 in the contest.
Lelkes contributed eight kills for the Bulldogs, with Stanback adding seven and Novoa-Miralles chipping in six. Freshman setter Federico Pagliara pushed up 36 assists.
Barton will take a two-week break in its season before returning to action with another trip to the Midwest on March 14-15, this time to Lebanon, Ill., for the McKendree Crossover Tournament, hosted by McKendree University.