Mastodons fall to rival Ball State in five sets

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Despite career-highs from Pelegrin Vargas in kills and digs, No. 15 Fort Wayne fell to No. 11 Ball State on Arnie Ball Court in five sets (21-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 15-10) on Pi Day (Wednesday, March 14).

The sophomore outside hitter had 24 kills, which matched his high set earlier this year in the five-set loss to Loyola, along with 15 digs, which surpassed his previous high of 11. This was Vargas’ third career double-double, and was paired with Michael Keegan’s 14th double-double of 48 assists and 12 digs.

Fort Wayne took the first and third sets behind strong hitting numbers, averaging .355 and .708 in the sets respectively. This .708 clip is the best hitting percentage in a single set in at least the last two seasons. Fourteen of the kills Vargas had came in the sets that the Mastodons won. The Puerto Rico native finished with 25.5 points, which is a season-high by any Mastodon.

In the middle, Richie Diedrich had a season-high 10 kills on 16 swings for a .500 clip. Tomas Gago added six kills and led the team with five blocks. Off the bench, Kade Bontrager had two aces, to tie Colton Stone for the lead in that category.

In set one, the ‘Dons went on a 4-0 run to open up a 10-7 lead, one that they did not relinquish for the rest of the set. The second set began with a 12-2 Cardinal lead that Fort Wayne eventually squeezed down to two at 23-21 and 24-22. The third was in the ‘Dons favor, as they led by as many as seven. Vargas had three straight kills followed by a Tony Price ace that started the set.

Ball State put the Mastodons in a hole in the fourth set, putting them down at 20-14 before the ‘Dons went on a 5-0 run. In the final set of the night, the Cardinals took a 9-4 lead to which Fort Wayne could not respond.

Preseason All-MIVA team members Matt Szews and Matt Walsh combined for 27 kills, 10 digs, 11 blocks and two aces for Ball State.

Fort Wayne falls to 15-6, 3-4 MIVA, while Ball State improves to 12-9, 5-2 MIVA. The two teams will meet on the court again on Saturday (March 17) when the ‘Dons travel to Muncie.