Daniel Sipocz

Repeating as a 20-game winner in 2011 just got tougher for the Ball State women's volleyball team.

Documents obtained from the Indiana Access to Public Records reveal that Ball State is set to meet Michigan State in the Spartan Invitational Sept. 16 and 17. The date and time of the match between Ball State and Michigan State have yet to be determined.

"There's going to be four outstanding, high RPI ranked teams there," Ball State coach Steve Shondell said. "It's also the final weekend before we get into the Mid-American Conference schedule, so it will help us prepare for that."

The Cardinals won't compete in the Spartan Invitational for free, however. Unlike in recent years, Ball State signed a contract with Michigan State guaranteeing the Cardinals $2,500 for competing in East Lansing.

It's a different scenario than last year for the Cardinals. In 2010, Ball State paid $750 to Oakland University for participating in the Active Ankle Challenge at Worthen Arena.

Michigan State sports information director Vince Baker said no comment could be made until the schedule was officially released.

Shondell said the other two teams participating in the Spartan Invitational are St. Louis and Albany.

"We are going to have a veteran team next year with a lot of players returning," he said. "We have to be battle tested and prepared to challenge for the MAC championship. To do that you need to play the best."

Multiple connections between Shondell and Michigan State allowed for the invitation to be extended to Ball State. Spartan assistant coach Russ Carney and Shondell played together on the men's volleyball team at Ball State.

Michigan State coach Cathy George is a former MAC coach. George spent 11 seasons at Western Michigan.

Ball State will play a second Big 10 opponent in the season opener. To begin the season, Ball State will travel to Purdue in the first-ever Shondell vs. Shondell coaching battle on the collegiate level between brothers Steve, Dave and John.

"We're excited and looking forward to see how we match up against the Big 10," Steve Shondell said.

No official contract for the Purdue match has been signed, but there has been a standing agreement between the two teams since last summer. Shondell said he expected to have a contract signed in the near future.

The Cardinals will also host the Active Ankle Challenge and participate in one other non-conference tournament in 2011.

The rest of Ball State's tournament schedule is unknown at this time.