Vinnie Lopes

Freshman outside attacker Jamion Hartley had enough after watching from the sidelines as the Ball State University men's volleyball team lost to unranked George Mason University early last season.

Having been an all-conference player in high school, Hartley said it was a struggle for him to only watch matches as a redshirt last season — so much that after the George Mason loss he asked the coaching staff to remove his redshirt. The Ball State coaches, though, quickly turned down the player's request, and Hartley redshirted all last season.

Now after a year of waiting, Hartley will get his chance to play for the No. 13 Cardinals.

Coach Joel Walton said Wednesday that Hartley will be Ball State's starting right outside attacker in its season opener against Loyola University on Friday in Chicago.

"Playing early at the start of the season is going to give him the experience he needs to reach his full potential," Walton said.

In addition to Hartley having the highest vertical jump on the team, Walton said the 19-year-old outside attacker has quickly emerged as one of Ball State's most physical players. The coach also said Hartley has the talent to become an elite outside attacker in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.

"He just needs experience to gain that self-confidence on the court," he said. "It's going to be important that our senior leaders out there are helping him out."

Prior to arriving at Ball State, Hartley played four seasons for his high school team in North Chicago and was the team's most valuable player during his senior season. He also played for a club volleyball team in Chicago, which advanced to the USA Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships in his final season.

Hartley said growing up in North Chicago and near Loyola makes his first college match even more meaningful.

"The feeling of being back at home and having people coming to the match is going to help me play better. It's a good experience. I can't wait."

Ball State returns six starters from last season's team that advanced to the MIVA championship match, but will be without all-conference outside attacker Todd Chamberlain who graduated in May. Chamberlain finished his senior season leading Ball State with 319 kills and had 239 more kill attempts than any other player on the team.

Walton said he is not expecting Hartley or any other outside attacker to completely fill the void Chamberlain left.

"[Chamberlain] will be missed," Walton said. "He was a good hitter, and we will miss his blocking. As a whole though, it's not like we are expecting one person to do that. It needs be split, and we need to have a balanced offense."

Along with Hartley, Walton said junior Marcus Imwalle and sophomore Dominic Spadavecchio will start at the two left outside attackers positions. Outside attacker Matt Sprague, wou started all but two matches last season and had the second most kills on the team, will not start against Loyola, and Walton said he could see time as a libero.

Despite having limited time working with starting setter Ethan Pheister, Hartley said the two have found a good rhythm throughout this week in practice and during the preseason. Pheister, a preseason all-conference selection, also said he is connecting well with all the outside attackers entering the team's season opener.

"We've gotten a good feel for each other," Pheister said. "Our timing should be alright."