Ball State leads the way in conference awards
The Daily News
In the preseason polls, Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association coaches did not give Ball State much of a chance to compete in the upper tier of the conference. With nearly an identical roster that produced mediocre results in the 2012 season, the accolades Ball State received at the end of the regular season were not anticipated.
Ball State was picked to finish fifth in the conference, and junior Matt Leske was the only player given preseason all-MIVA honors. But after a season that saw Ball State finish third in the MIVA with the best overall record in the conference, the Cardinals that were looked over at the beginning of the year earned recognition throughout the league.
Ball State had a conference-high five players selected to the all-MIVA team. Seniors Jamion Hartley, Greg Herceg and Tommy Rouse and junior Kevin Owens were named to the first team, and Leske was named to the second team.
“It’s really a sign of respect that our program has had to earn,” coach Joel Walton said. “I’m very proud Tommy, Jamion, Greg, KO and Leske were honored, I think they all deserve it, not only for the way they’ve played this year, but for the course of their careers.”
Walton was also honored as the MIVA’s Coach of the Year for the second time in his 15th season as head coach. Walton attributed beating every team in the conference and the team’s current 12-match winning streak as keys of winning the award.
“We have to recognize all these awards are products of the team’s work and the team’s success,” Walton said.
With five of Ball State’s seven key players honored with all-conference honors, Walton stressed that this cannot be the climax of the season.
“It scares me that so many of our guys were honored,” Walton said. “I don’t want these awards to quench our players thirst. I want us to still go out and play like we have something to prove.”
Walton said that the most important prizes have yet to be claimed, and his team needs to heed that.
“For me the most important award of the season is the conference tournament MVP because that awards usually means a player has lead his team to the tournament championship,” Walton said. “The guys should feel proud of these awards, but know that there are better ones out there waiting for them.”