VOLLEYBALL: Ball State gears up for season opening trip to Tampa
The Daily News
Ball State volleyball head coach Steve Shondell wants more than just effort from his team.
“Three wins — that’s what I’m striving for,” Shondell said. “You never really know what’s going to happen in the first matches of the season, though.”
The Cardinals will fly Thursday morning to South Florida in preparation for its season opener Friday. With a mix of healthy veterans and new freshmen, along with a transfers, the team hopes its combination of experience will be successful throughout the season.
For the opening matches of the season, Ball State is approaching the weekend by focusing less on its opponent and more on itself. Friday’s match against Austin Peay will be the first time Ball State has ever faced them, and Shondell said he doesn’t have much to go on.
Austin Peay finished the 2012 season 17-15, but bowed out of the Ohio Valley Conference Volleyball Championship in the first round.
Shondell’s lineup is expected to be senior dominated. He said he expects all five seniors to see significant playing time, with sophomore transfer Alex Fuelling playing on the left side along with sophomore Hayley Benson at middle blocker.
Although Fuelling stands out in the lineup because it will be her first appearance in a Ball State uniform, she won’t be the sole focus of the coaches this weekend.
“I want to see all of them,” Shondell said. “I’ve seen some of them for three years, so I’ve already got a pretty good idea of what I’ve got. But I’m curious to see what kind of start each player gets off to.”
After sitting out last season due to transfer regulations, Fuelling is getting ready to play for the first time at Ball State.
Fuelling will be expected to provide some of the offense that vanished from the left side when Lisa Scott and Kara Bates graduated.
The duo accounted for 45.7 percent of Ball State’s kills, and senior Mindy Marx is also expected to step up to help replace the lost offense.
With Friday closing in, Fuelling doesn’t want to overwhelm herself with the prospect of a new season on the horizon.
“I don’t want to think about it too much because then it’ll just get in my head,” Fuelling said. “Focusing and having fun at the same time will be important for us to win.”
Coming in with just 12 career starts at Morehead State, Fuelling will start the season with players like Marx and senior Lauren Grant, who have 59 and 31 starts.
Leadership from Marx and Grant will be crucial for Fuelling as the season begins, who said the seniors are the best leaders on the team and are always open for questions and help.
With five seniors, Fuelling won’t have to look far for leadership, as it’ll be next to her all season. Austin Peay sits on the other side, with just two seniors on its roster.
Austin Peay lost Nikki Doyle to graduation, who led the team in kills, but returns junior Jada Stotts, who finished with just 10 fewer kills then Doyle.
After opening the season against Austin Peay at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Ball State team will face Citadel and South Florida at 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday.