Nathan Pace

The quest for confidence and consistency continues for the Ball State University men's volleyball team, and Penn State University is where coach Joel Walton hopes his team discovers it.

After losing two of its last three, Ball State (7-3, 2-3 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) travels to No. 7 Penn State tonight followed by a visit to St. Francis University Saturday night.

"When you are losing in those situations how do you gain confidence?" Walton said. "Well you have to gain confidence by being successful."

The Nittany Lions are 10-2 and are the defending champions of their conference.

"Penn State is a great team, they've always have been," libero Billy Ebel said. "But I also think we are a good team."

Ball State is in search of its first win against a ranked team this season after losing to Loyola University and the Ohio State University in three game sweeps earlier this year.

Ebel feels that the Cardinals are not lacking athletic ability, just the right state of mind to knock off a team like Penn State.

"It's all mentality at this point," Ebel said. "Physically we can do it; on paper we look great, but on the court we just need to get more emotionally prepared for each match."

Ball State had a surprising loss to Quincy University Saturday night, its first defeat to a team with a losing record this season and first loss to Quincy since 2001. The Cardinals, however, are not panicking just yet.

"It comes down to peaking in April," outside attacker Dominic Spadevicco said. "We are going into this Penn State match like it is any other match, and hopefully we'll go in there and play well. We feel like we haven't reached our full potential. There have definitely been teams in the past that had a slow start and picked up as the year went on."

With a variety of line-ups on the court this season, Walton's had his hands full choosing what players should be on the floor.

"We have not been able to lock into a consistent group and that has caused some inconsistencies," Walton said. "Some of it, too, is just inconsistent play where night to night our players will play differently. That makes it extremely difficult for me to find the right group each night out not knowing who's going to show up."