Andrew Mishler

A promising start to Jamion Hartley's career in the 2010 season didn't necessarily guarantee him more success in his 2011 campaign.

Since the start of this season, Hartley has had to fight for playing time off the bench, starting only six matches this year after starting 15 last season.

In last weekend's matches against Loyola and IPFW, Hartley's drive for playing time was finally rewarded.

He didn't disappoint in taking complete advantage of the opportunity.

The redshirt sophomore started each game, producing a combined 23 kills, 14 digs and seven blocks. He also finished the match against Loyola with a .303 attack percentage.

While Hartley's hard-hitting offensive ability is what stands out the most on the court, coach Joel Walton said he's been most impressed with his blocking recently.

"Right now, he's doing some positive things for us," he said. "I think his blocking is intimidating even though he might not be getting a lot of blocks. He alters attackers shots."

Eye-popping statistics from Hartley in 2010 branded him with high expectations for the 2011 season. Most notably, he scored 30 kills against Lewis on Feb. 26, 2010, tying for second in Ball State's rally-scoring era.

But his inconsistencies on both offense and defense forced Walton into limiting his playing time until he saw improvement.

Even after a weekend of success from Hartley, Walton remained critical, saying he still has a long way to go before realizing his potential.

"We give up a little bit in the back row defensively [when playing Hartley], and some teams are taking advantage of that," Walton said. "That's going to be Jamion's challenge. Can he get his serving game and his back row defensive play up to the level where we get to highlight his offense and his block in the front row."

Ball State has struggled for most of the season at finding the right mix of players at outside attackers, switching through players like Marcus Imwalle, Dominic Spadavecchio, Greg Herceg, Larry Wrather and Hartley in an effort to find chemistry.

Walton said right side attacking, Hartley's position, was the area he was most concerned about moving forward.

Following last weekend's matches, Hartley said his success against Loyola and IPFW raised his confidence. It's something he hopes to carry into a possible Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association semi-finals match with Loyola.

"Even though we lost [against Loyola], I'm really excited that we get to play them again in about two weeks," he said. "I'm just really excited to play them again and have a great match."