Nathan Pace

Mixing business with pleasure is the challenge the Ball State University men's volleyball team has over Spring Break.

The Cardinals will have to balance fun in the Southwest with winning critical matches on their schedule.

Freshman setter Dan Wichmann from Arlington Heights, Ill. has never been to California.

"I'm looking forward to it a lot, and I'm excited to see what California is like outside of volleyball," Wickham said. "I wish we could spend more time there."

Senior libero Billy Ebel is happy to be going to the Southwest for Spring Break over his hometown of Lenexa, Kan.

"I would rather be playing volleyball than going home to boring old Kansas," Ebel said. "It's an upgrade."

The team planned to view a live showing of the Price is Right on Monday, but couldn't book an affordable airline trip to Los Angeles before the show. Instead, they must fly to Phoenix first, and will find other ways to enjoy themselves in Los Angeles on Friday.

Ball State's first match will be against Grand Canyon University on Tuesday. The Antelopes are in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association making it a chance for the Cardinals to improve their 3-4 MIVA record. The Cardinals are in fourth place in the MIVA standings with only five conference games to go.

The Antelopes are dead last with a 0-5 MIVA record and were defeated by the Cardinals in Muncie on January 21, 3-1. Ball State is the only MIVA school that plays Grand Canyon home and away this season as it will be Grand Canyon's first home match in conference. It is the second season that Grand Canyon has had a volleyball team.

Playing so far away from home creates its own problems to contend with.

"We have to make sure the guys stay hydrated," coach Joel Walton said. "Through jet lag the guys experience dehydration."

It doesn't get any easier as Ball State must travel by bus to Los Angeles on Wednesday to take on No. 7 UCLA.  Thursday's match at No. 1 Pepperdine will follow in Malibu, Calif. Ball State is 0-4 against ranked opponents this season and has yet to play a team in the top five.

The Cardinals remain confident they can compete with the best teams in the country.

"Going out there and winning three times in a row will be huge for the program," Ebel said. "We've beaten ranked teams before."

Walton views the matches against teams such as UCLA and Pepperdine as important for recruiting.

"That's one of the reasons why they came to Ball State," Walton said. "To measure themselves against great teams."

The Cardinals do not have any players on their roster from the West Coast but that doesn't stop the program from going after recruits in the area.

"Our name becomes known in those areas and players put our name a place they can attend," Walton said. "If we can find a player on the West Coast we would be very happy with that."