MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State revisits MIVA rivalries in weekend matches
Ohio State and Loyola are the two top teams in the conference
Redemption is on the minds of the players on the Ball State men's volleyball team.
Ball State (6-4) will face off against Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association rivals Ohio State and Loyola this weekend. Both opponents, Ohio State in particular, represent opportunities for Ball State to redeem itself for past defeats.
The sixth ranked Buckeyes have dominated the Cardinals for three years, winning eight consecutive games in the series, including three straight defeats in the MIVA tournament.
Ohio State also owns a 9-2 overall record in 2011, with a perfect 3-0 record in the MIVA.
"They're very consistent offensively, and defensively, they can put a lot of pressure on you," coach Joel Walton said.
Veteran players such as Kevin Heine, Shawn Sangrey, and Grayson Overman have played large roles in the Buckeye's success to start the season. Sangrey ranks first in the MIVA for service aces and points, while Overman and Heine rank second and third in the conference for hitting percentage, respectively.
Even with Ohio State's talent in mind, sophomore Greg Herceg said Ball State has the skills and experience to match up against its rival.
"We know what we're in for, so just have to prepare ourselves for that," he said. "I definitely think this year we have a way better cohesive team. We've got a lot more positive attitude. I think that's going to pay off a lot in these high-pressure games."
Pressure is something Walton said he wanted his team to avoid succumbing to in both matches this weekend.
"Sometimes you lose a match before you even step on a court because you're over thinking it," he said. "We're going to find out mentality wise how our guys approach this match and if they're up for the challenge."
Like Ohio State, 13th ranked Loyola (8-3, 3-0 MIVA) has proven to be a top contender in the nation this year, most notably for knocking off No. 2 BYU last week in a 3-2 match.
The Cardinals had the last laugh in 2010, sweeping the Ramblers 3-0 in the final game of the regular season after Ball State had fallen to Loyola in the season opener.
While Ball State will face off against two top MIVA teams, one advantage that could slide into its favor is Worthen Arena. In three home matches this season, the Cardinals have yet to drop a set, beating Lindenwood, Pfeiffer and Limestone by 3-0 scores.
The attendance at home on weekends with a match against Ohio State has also normally been high. The announced crowd of 1,679 in the Cardinals' 2010 match against the Buckeyes greatly outnumbered the attendance numbers at other home matches.
"Our home environment is the best in the MIVA," Walton said. "When we're playing a big match and we get 1,500 to 2,000 students in Worthen Arena and our students are supporting our team, it's really an event to see. That's a huge energy booster to our guys."
Ball State will face Ohio State at 7:30 p.m. tonight and then take on Loyola at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.