MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State moving on after upset loss to Quincy
Ball State frustrated all week in practice as it prepares for Penn State
Coach Joel Walton still had a little trouble talking about what happened last weekend as he sat in his office late Wednesday night.
Six days since losing to a Quincy University team that hadn't won a conference match in almost two years, Walton said the Ball State University men's volleyball team and him are trying not to think about one of worst upset loses in its program history.
"We have to move forward, and not going to keep looking back at that one night," he said.
Ball State entered Saturday's match without losing to Quincy since the 2001 season, including a five-game victory against Quincy the previous night.
The Cardinals four-game loss, though, ended their 21-match winning streak against the Hawks and their streak of receiving votes in 38 consecutive top 15 coaches poll ended in Monday's poll.
Walton said his players were frustrated this entire week in practice as they tried to figure out what went wrong against Quincy. The 12th-year head coach also said most players have shown more emotion than usual this week during team workouts.
"There is some testiness and frustration that came out of our guys during practice this week," Walton said. "That's how I want it. I wouldn't want guys coming into the gym all happy-go-lucky and everything after that loss."
With this loss, the Cardinals (7-3, 2-3 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) are off to their worst conference start in five years. However, Walton said he hopes at the end of the season the loss against Quincy can be viewed as a turning point.
Similar to Ball State, Ohio State University lost a non-conference home match to Juniata College, Division III, midway through last season. Following that loss, the Buckeyes went undefeated in conference play and swept the Cardinals in the MIVA championship match.
"It can happen," Walton said. "It's a lot up to the team and what they do as a group, and if we make the necessary changes to get better."
Ball State's first match following the Quincy upset won't be an easy one.
Ball State will play a non-conference match against No. 7 Penn State University — the highest ranked opponent it has played this season — at 7 p.m. Friday in University Park, Pa.
The Nittany Lions (10-2, 4-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) have won 12 consecutive conference titles and are on an eight match winning streak against the Cardinals.
Ball State's last win against Penn State in January 2006 was also the last time the Nittany Lions have lost a regular season home match.
Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said he like the way his team has continued to improve since the start of the season, when it defeated two top 15 ranked teams at the Outrigger Invitational in Hawaii. Pavlik also said his team is not considering Ball State to be an easy win — even after the loss to Quincy.
"I never look at Ball State as being a down year, there is just so much tradition there," Pavlik said. "Our recent matches against Ball State haven't been easy wins and don't assume anything is going to be easy against the Cardinals."
Walton said he has not yet finalize a starting lineup against Penn State and probably wouldn't make that decision until arriving to Penn State. He also said there were open competitions for almost all seven starting positions throughout this week in practice.
Regardless of the players on the court and the outcome Friday, Walton said the Penn State match will offer his team at least one good thing — a chance to move on from Quincy.
"[Penn State] is a great challenge for the team," he said.