MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State hitting a hot streak
Cardinals riding upset win over Penn State into MIVA tournament
Ball State wasn't content with a third seed in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament heading into the weekend. The team wanted more.
With a pair of wins against No. 9 Penn State and St. Francis on Friday and Saturday, Ball State got just what it was looking for.
Sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather said beating Penn State is what Ball State needed as it heads into the postseason.
"It's huge. It's a great confidence booster for our team to show that we can compete at a high level, and that we can stay together and pull through when we're down," he said.
Ball State swept Penn State 3-0 on Friday before taking care of St. Francis with a 3-1 victory Saturday night. The wins put the Cardinals on a three-match winning streak and gives them some much-needed momentum heading into the MIVA tournament and their quarterfinals match against Quincy on Saturday.
"It's a good time of the year to be hot," coach Joel Walton said. "We need to be hot because our road in the tournament is going to be a tough one. We've got to make sure that we don't even look beyond next week. Our focus has to be 100 percent on Qunicy."
Coming into Friday's match against Penn State (21-5), the Nittany Lions were on a six-match winning streak and owned the top spot in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.
From the first whistle, the Cardinals' focus didn't seem to be on the Nittany Lions' accomplishments. Their focus was only on ending the match with a win.
Senior J.D. Gasparovic said energy and the home crowd made the difference for the Cardinals, who hadn't won against the Nittany Lions since 2006.
"We just wanted to come out and go all out and play with no fear in this match," he said. "Everyone came out and was physical. The fans here give so much energy to the team. Worthen Arena has been a phenomenal place to play and it will always be that way."
While Ball State was able to end the regular season on a high note, the MIVA Tournament this weekend presents a whole new obstacle. Walton said he wants his team to be ready for anything in the tournament.
"Because we're only going to be at home in the first round, these guys have to be ready for a war," he said. "They've got to be ready to put their lives on the line each night in our conference tournament."