MEN’S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State going on the road with confidence
The Daily News
After sweeping through the past weekend, Ball State’s men’s volleyball team’s confidence is back to the level it was when the team started the season 8-0.
Coach Joel Walton hopes beating Sacred Heart and getting a marquee victory over then-No. 10 Penn State proves what his team is capable of doing. In the most recent Coach’s Poll, Walton and two other coaches ranked Ball State No. 15 on their ballots.
Even when the Cardinals were the last undefeated team in the nation at 8-0 no coach gave them a vote.
“There’s signs our team can be as good as we think,” Walton said. “With some wins over additional ranked opponents, the Coach’s Poll could be something we are talking about a lot.”
Complacency has been a problem for the Cardinals this year. There have been times where three or four point leads suddenly vanish after a few service errors and miscommunications.
“Sometimes with a lead our guys start to relax,” Walton said. “It should be the exact opposite, once you up open up that gap you need to expand, you never want to give the other team a belief that they can come back.
“We need to play each point with the same kind of focus and determination.”
Going into a weekend playing two Division II schools in Belmont Abbey and King College at their home courts is a potential trap for a team coming off an emotional high of beating a ranked team for the first time in a year.
“We have to be conscious that we could be walking into a gymnasium full of fired up fans to see their program play a Division I program, something that may be unique to the rest of their athletic department,” Walton said. “Fans that just need to see their team make a couple plays before they’re at fever pitch and making everyone believe they can beat Ball State.”
Both Belmont Abbey and King College have the element of surprise on their side when Ball State will come to town.
Belmont Abbey runs a two-setter offense, which is very rare in college volleyball. The offense allows for mid-play back-cuts and lots of atypical movement from attackers.
King College rotates a surfeit amount of players. The Tornados have had nine players play over 50 sets out of a possible 80.
Ball State will rely on its cornerstone, blocking, to counteract these potential problems. Ball State as a teams ranks first in the nation in blocks per set at 3.15, and is anchored by its middles, junior Kevin Owens and senior Matt Leske.
The towers in the middle are No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation individually, the 6-foot, 7-inch Leske at 1.45 a set and the 6-foot, 9-inch Owens at 1.41 a set.
Being a team looking for national attention and trying to build momentum going in the last half of its conference schedule Walton thinks Ball State should win both these matches.
“The expectations this weekend are we are going to win,” Walton said.
Stats from last weekend
Att. Pct.- .333
Set record- 6-1
Opponents(PSU and Sacred Heart)
Att. Pct.- .140
Set record- 1-6