Nathan Pace

No. 3 California State University Northridge has not loss to school out of the rankings all year, but Ball State University coach Joel Walton still has high hopes tonight at Worthen Arena.

"I wouldn't say we are going to have to play a perfect game," Walton said. "But we will have to play well. Our team is capable of playing at the level that Cal State Northridge plays out."

Walton cites how competitive Loyola University was at Cal State Northridge as evidence that Ball State University can win. Loyola lost the match but had chances to win some games in Northridge's gym. Loyola and Ball State share some characteristic as a Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association member.

"The advantage we are going to have that Loyola didn't have is that Cal State Northridge is going to be playing in our gym," Walton said. "We have to use our comfortable environment to relax and play well."

The Cardinals are optimistic because they are playing their best volleyball of the season a month before the MIVA tournament.

"We've competed with ranked teams all season long and it's just a matter of making sure we play as a team." libero Billy Ebel said. "And we've been playing the best volleyball right now that we can, and we just have to play that consistently and then we can win games against ranked opponents."

Ebel was named MIVA Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season after Ball State defeated Rutgers-Newark and George Mason University last weekend. In the Rutgers-Newark match, Ball State was behind in games two and three and rallied to sweep the match 3-0. Walton believes that this demonstrates how the Cardinals have improved from the start of the season.

"The comeback against Rutgers [Newark] in those last two games is something we haven't been good at earlier in the season," he said. "To work our way back into both of those games was a good step for our team."

Five of Ball State's seven losses have come against ranked teams, and none of Ball State's 12 wins have been against a ranked opponent.

"It will definitely be a challenge," outside attacker Lee Meyer said. "But because of that challenge I think it will definitely be more exciting for the fans."