Confident Buckholz dominates in No. 8/8 Ball State home sweep of Sacred Heart

Photo by Vinnie Lopes

Vanis Buckholz does not lack confidence.

Whether it is doing a signature birdman celebration following an ace or engaging in full uniform with fans in stands after a match, there is an aura around the Ball State middle attacker any time they are on the court.

“Not to be too cocky or anything, but you got to have confidence on the court. If you are nervous you are not going to play to your potential,” Buckholz said. “You also got to have fun.”

That fun and confidence from Buckholz was on full display Saturday night during a career performance.

Buckholz led all players with a career-high eight blocks and added five kills on a perfect 1.000 attack percentage to help No. 8/8 Ball State sweep Sacred 25-11, 25-16, 25-21 in front of a home crowd of 1,371 people.

This was the fourth time this season Buckholz had at least four blocks. The sophomore also has at least both five kills and a .400 attack percentage in three consecutive matches.

The Cardinals finished the sweep with a season-high 13.5 blocks – 12.5 more blocks than the Pioneers (1-4, 0-0 NEC). Along with Buckholz, middle attacker Felix Egharevba and outside attacker Tinaishe Ndavazocheva each added four blocks.


Setter David Flores guided the Ball State offense to out-hit Sacred Heart .456 to .092.

All-American outside attacker Kaleb Jenness led all players with 14 kills on a .500 attack percentage. Egharevba also had five kills and zero errors on a .714 attack percentage, including the match-winning kill after Sacred Heart overpassed a Buckholz serve.

Outside attacker Mark Berry in the loss had a team-high 12 kills and hit .474. Berry, though, was the only Pioneer to have more than three kills and hit better than zero.

Sacred Heart committed 18 service errors – seven more errors than Ball State.

Jenness in the third game had a game-high eight kills to help the Cardinals (4-2, 0-0 MIVA) secure the win. The Cardinals led 13-12 before Jenness had back-to-back kills to jumpstart a 5-2 run and give the team a multiple-point lead that it would not relinquish.

The Cardinals limited the Pioneers to a negative-.050 attack percentage in its second-game win and had six blocks, including Buckholz having a game-winning solo block. Sacred Heart midway through the game was within two points of Ball State before the Cardinals went on an 8-2 run that featured an ace from Buckholz.

Ball State opened the match on a 10-1 run that was capped off with a triple block from Jennes, Buckholz and Flores.

Jenness and Buckholz each had a game-high four kills. Ball State also hit .688 and committed one error in the opening game en route to tying the largest margin of victory in a single-game throughout the series history between these two teams.

Ball State remains undefeated in 13 all-time meetings against Sacred Heart. It is also the seventh time the Cardinals have swept the Pioneers in the series.

Ball State has won its last four matches since losing twice on the road against No. 1/1 Hawai’i to open the season. The team will continue its season-long home stand as it plays host to No. 12 BYU for a two-match series starting Thursday.

BYU (5-1, 0-0 MPSF) finished with a near single-match program record 22 blocks in a five-game upset win against No. 6/5 UC Irvine on Saturday.

The Cougars’ recent success, though, did not deter Buckholz’s confidence.

When asked what to expect from the upcoming match-up against BYU, Buckholz gave a simple and concise answer.

“Expect a win,” Buckholz said.