Vinnie Lopes

Coach Joel Walton doesn't want to tip his hand even the slightest to No. 10 Ohio State University.

Less than 24 hours before playing Ohio State in the conference tournament semifinals, the Ball State University coach said Tuesday that he does not want to announce who will be starting at left outside attacker.

"We've having some discussions between myself and my coaching staff," he said. "I'm 90 percent sure what direction that the starting group is going to be, and we'll keep it at that."

The Cardinals (19-10, 7-5 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) have started senior Matt Sprague and freshman Larry Wrather along side Lee Meyer at the two left outside attacker positions in recent matches.

Sprague, who had limited playing time this season because of ankle injury, has started the last two matches. In Ball State's MIVA Tournament quarterfinals victory against IPFW, he had six kills and a .059 attack percentage on offense and two blocks.

Walton said after Saturday's match that he likes having Sprague on the court more for his defensive and senior leadership abilities.

Wrather started 15 matches and is eighth on the team with 1.57 kills per game. The freshman had started 11 consecutive matches before being pulled for Sprague midway through Ball State's last match against Ohio State on April 16 after having two kills and -.273 attack percentage.

Walton declined to comment if there were any other players he was considering to start at the left outside attacker position because he wants to keep Ohio State guessing until the start of the match.

The Buckeyes (20-7, 11-1 MIVA) enter this match as the MIVA regular season champions and are on a seven-match winning streak against the Cardinals. That streak includes two sweeps against Ball State this season and Ohio State wins the last two years in the MIVA championship match.

Walton said the success of the left outside attackers will largerly determine if Ball State can pull off the upset.

He said the Buckeyes will set up a blocking scheme designed to take away All-MIVA middle attackers J.D. Gasparovic and Anders Nelson, leaving Ball State's outside attackers one-on-one with Ohio State's blockers.

"Ohio State is going to scheme to our middles and they are going to say to our outsides, ‘I don't think you can carry this team to victory,'" Walton said. "Good left side production will make the difference."

Ohio State coach Pete Hanson was unvailable for comment despite multiple phone calls.
The semifinal match will start at 7 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio.

Walton said he and his players are confident they can defeat the Buckeyes to advance to their third consecutive MIVA championship match.

"We got the guys that are capable of doing what we need to do to win," he said. "It's do or die and now is the time. Our guys need to make it happen."