Daniel Sipocz

There was no time for Steve Shondell to settle into his new position as the women's volleyball coach for Ball State University on Wednesday. 

Less than 24 hours after the announcement of his hiring, Shondell returned to Worthen Arena for his first practice with the team and began his whirlwind day of meetings.

"Today was more of an orientation than anything really. I had met the team a few times prior, but never really got to know them," Shondell said. "I was more nervous than I can remember being in a long time at practice. I think they were a little nervous too, but we all relaxed more as practice went on and had fun. We got a lot of things accomplished in the process too."

Time with the team will be short for Shondell as the spring session of workouts comes to a close this week. He will have two more practices with the team before he will see them again in August.

Shondell said ball control and fundamentals will have to improve if Ball State is to return to the top of the Mid-American Conference.

"We want to focus on the fundamentals of the game," Shondell said. "I want them to learn the basics of the fundamentals that I teach so they can work on that on their own time and be prepared for when we get back together in August. Teaching ball control and fundamentals are my strength so that will be our focus."

A key piece to this puzzle will be junior-to-be setter Brittany McGinnis. McGinnis left the team in January, but has since rejoined the team as her experience and relationships with outside hitter Hannah Sullivan and middle hitters Jennifer Boyd, Kelsey Brandl and Charde' Phillips will help the offense.

"We're thrilled to have Brittany back," Shondell said. "She's a great setter and a great leader. She'll help provide our team with her leadership."

Ball State is coming off a 15-17 season that ended in a 3-1 defeat against Ohio University in the MAC Tournament.

"Ball State has touched the nation in a special way with all the coaches we've produced," Shondell said. "The fact that we've had four losing seasons in a row is unacceptable. That's why I came back. It's not about individual accolades; I don't care if we never have an All-Conference player. What matters is winning and having pride in Ball State."

Helping Shondell try to restore the program to the former glory of the 1990s will be assistant coach Marci Peniata. Peniata was the interim head coach after Dave Boos resigned in March to take an assistant coaching position at the University of Florida.

"It was a good learning experience running the day-to-day operations," Peniata said. "I tried making it as comfortable of a transition for the team. I kept reminding the girls that we're all in this together and the new coach would be a good thing."

Peniata will remain on the coaching staff and will serve as Shondell's top assistant. Her new responsibilities will include a stronger presence in recruiting. During her time substituting as the head coach, Peniata kept in touch with the recruiting class.

All four recruits who have signed national letters of intent are expected to join the team in August according to Shondell.

"Marci has done a great job in keeping the program moving in the right direction," Shondell said. "We'll get together and discuss how we want to fill out the two remaining assistant positions."

One top priority for any assistant brought in will be in the scouting and reviewing of all game tapes. Shondell said that there was no time-table established in filling out his staff and he would have a large pool of candidates to draw from. No potential candidate names were given.

Despite the lack of recent success on the court Shondell was confident that Ball State would very soon reclaim a spot at the top of the MAC.

"We want to win every game and every match," Shondell said. "Trying to do that will be very difficult to do, but its possible. Our goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament. We have a long way to go in a short time to get there. This is the group that will make history for Ball State. This junior and senior group will be the group that takes Ball State back to the NCAA Tournament. They're a hungry team who haven't seen the amount of success they want to see."