Six weeks ago Ball State men’s volleyball slunk out of Loyola in a weekend where it was swept at, then-No. 12, Lewis and Loyola. Those losses extended Ball State’s losing streak to five games at 8-5 overall and 3-5 in the conference.

This weekend when No. 9 Lewis and No. 11 Loyola visit Worthen Arena, they will face a reinvented team, averaging a .328 hitting percentage (which would be first in the conference and second in the nation) since those matches. No. 15 Ball State is on a 10-match winning streak, including wins over then-No.10 Penn State and then-No. 8 Ohio State, and has only dropped two sets, making the numbers next to the team’s names a little less important.

“The rankings say we’re an underdog, but if you asked our guys, I don’t think they are feeling like that,” head coach Joel Walton said.

These two last regular season matches that impact on where Ball State will be seeded in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association conference tournament, which is based on conference standings. Depending on outcomes Ball State could finish as high as second, or drop as low as fifth.

No matter where Ball State ends up, it is almost assured that it will face either Lewis or Loyola in the MIVA tournament, but that will not affect Walton’s strategy for the weekend.

“I’ve got no interest in holding my cards close to my chest,” Walton said. “If anything I want to send a message to these teams that this is who the Ball State Cardinals are this year, and we’re going to be a handful.

“You better be ready for us because we’re ready for you.”

Because of the MIVA’s video exchange program, both Lewis and Loyola will not be surprised by Ball State’s lineup, so Walton said that the team had been working on a few new wrinkles to try and surmount Lewis’ conference leading blocks per set and Loyola’s conference leading aces per set and overall hitting percentage.

The ‘wrinkles’ will compliment play for the Cardinals that leads the MIVA in opponent’s hitting percentage, kills and digs, and also has touted four of the last five MIVA Defensive Players of the Week. 

“We are at a point in the year, and the point in many of our players careers, that the time is now,” Walton said. “These are two really good measuring sticks, and I’m confident in what our team can do.”