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Men’s College Volleyball: Lewis tops Ball State to reach MIVA Tournament final

James Hoffman helped Lewis rally past Ball State Wednesday night. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

James Hoffman helped Lewis rally past Ball State on Wednesday night. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

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Lewis took a giant leap toward reaching the NCAA tournament by beating Ball State 23-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-13, 15-8 Wednesday night at Neil Carey Arena.

No. 11 Lewis (23-6) rallied from an opening-set loss and a 2-1 deficit to beat No. 13 Ball State (22-7), the tournament’s No. 3 seed, for the third time this season.

The victory puts No. 2 seed Lewis in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament final against No. 1 Loyola (26-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Chicago. Loyola beat Lewis in the MIVA title match a year ago.

“There’s no pressure on us,” Lewis libero Lucas Yanez said. “We want one more shot at them.”

Wednesday, Lewis rallied behind the defense of Yanez and the timely hitting of Eric Fitterer to win its eighth straight match. Yanez came up with 19 digs and Fitterer posted 14 kills for the Flyers.

“We knew that if we didn’t win both games, we were going to be watching the MIVA championship at home,” Yanez said. “We have too many guys who worked too hard to do that.”

“We found a way to win, and that’s what you have to do when your backs are against the wall,” Lewis coach Dan Friend said. “They were the No. 1 team in the MIVA in blocks and digs and we were second in both. I think we turned the tables on them tonight.”

Geoff Powell (18 kills) and Greg Petty (16) were the top two hitters for Lewis.

“All our pin hitters did a great job and (setter) BJ (Boldog) is doing a great job putting the ball in good places,” Fitterer said. “We did a great job spreading the ball around.”

“The thing with ‘Fit’ is as long as we put him in good spots, he does great,” Friend said of Fitterer, who made just three attack errors. “He took advantage of some opportunities. We knew they were going to key on Geoff and Greg and why wouldn’t you?”

Lewis committed 11 errors in the opening set. Fitterer’s hitting sparked the Flyers to a win in the second set. The 6-foot-8 junior had five kills, including the clincher from Petty’s assist.

Eleven hitting errors paved the way for Ball State to capture the third set. Lewis had just three attack errors to dominate the fourth and send the match to a deciding set.

Lewis turned the intensity up a notch in the final set. Powell’s kill gave the Flyers a 3-0 lead it would not relinquish. Petty’s kill from one of Boldog’s 55 assists made it 8-3 Flyers before the team’s changed sides. It did little to change the momentum. Fitterer’s tip kill pushed the lead to 11-5. A Ball State error ended the set and the match.

Lewis is making its third straight MIVA championship appearance and is in search of its fifth NCAA berth.



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