Nathan Pace

"April Madness" of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament has arrived as No. 13 Ball State University will play host to IPFW in Worthen Arena tonight for the MIVA Tournament Quarterfinals.

Both teams face the possibility of their seasons ending tonight, creating pressure according to coach Joel Walton.

"The team that can handle those additional emotions those additional nerves will have a huge advantage," Walton said. "Being in our own environment should help us with that focus."

Ball State enters postseason play as the No. 4 seed and is paired up with fifth-seeded IPFW. The Cardinals have defeated the Mastodons twice this season on Feb. 25 and April 3.

The winner of tonight's match then moves on to play at No. 1 seed Ohio State University, which received a first-round bye. The Buckeyes have already defeated the Cardinals twice this season.

"It's very challenging to beat a team three times in a season," Walton said. "The most difficult thing is just the motivational side of it. Your team feels like they have an advantage, then their is a tendency to relax in that match, and we can't afford that [against IPFW]."

With Fort Wayne being only an hour north on Interstate 69, plenty of Mastodon fans are expected to make the trip.

"I would expect Fort Wayne to have a solid following behind the IPFW team," Walton said. "We should have a good crowd Saturday night as well. It's tournament time."

The first meeting between the two schools this season ended with a 3-2 win for Ball State in Muncie. Ball State has made some changes in their player rotation since then and swept IPFW in Fort Wayne on April 3. The Mastodons had a poor night serving with 23 service errors, making it easier on the Cardinals.

"I think we have more offensive weapons than they do," Walton said. "Some of those things can go away if we are not ready to play."

Ball State tends to run their offense through their middle attackers J.D. Gasparovic and Anders Nelson. IPFW, on the other hand, runs its offense through its outside attackers as both teams have different styles.

"Our strengths are our middles," Walton said. "We've had matches where our outsides have played really well but overall our strength has been or middles and IPFW has really been through their outside attackers."