Ball State men’s volleyball returns to action this weekend, hosting Sacred Heart on Jan. 14 and Harvard on Jan. 15 at Worthen Arena. 

Currently the Cardinals are 1-1 and look to improve their record against the 0-3 Pioneers and the 1-2 Crimson.

Sacred Heart may have a losing record, but it already played two teams ranked in the top 10 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Coaches poll.

Coach Joel Walton believes that Sacred Heart’s record may be deceptive, and that they are a very capable team.

“I’ve watched Sacred Heart on video, they’ve got a couple of attackers that get up and crack the ball pretty well,” Walton said. “They’ve got a setter from Brazil, like we have a setter from Brazil, Eduardo Zardo.”

Zardo leads the Pioneers in assists with 9.98 per set in 2015; finishing with 918 on the year. Even with the success, Walton believes his team is very capable to matching up with Zardo and the Pioneers’ setting.

“Whether it's Hiago Garchet or Connor Gross setting, we’ve been working on some things this week, and I’d like to see more consistency in all areas of our ball control,” Walton said. “That’s been a real focus for us and I want to see our guys play more confidently in those areas this weekend.”

As for Harvard, the Cardinals visited the Crimson in Cambridge, Mass. last season, but were swept in three straight sets.

“We went to Harvard last year and really laid an egg,” Walton said. “They ball controlled very well and ran their offense the way that they wanted to and really dictated the outcome of that match.”

Senior outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski, is off to a hot start in the Cardinals' first two matches. Against Stanford, he finished with 12 kills and proceeded to hitting a perfect 1.000 hitting percentage in the match against Alderson Broaddus the following evening. 

Niemczewski and the Cardinals look to redeem themselves against the Crimson, but will have to get past a pair of outside attackers in Casey White and Branden Clemens.

White has started at Harvard the past couple of years recording a career best attack percentage of .632 against Ball State in Jan. 2015.

Clemens, a Carmel high school graduate, is a current captain and former high school teammate of Cardinal senior outside attacker Jack Lesure.

“I’m really looking forward to a rematch and an opportunity to step on the court against Harvard and play much better volleyball this season,” Walton said.

Walton knows that if his team can pull out a couple of wins this weekend, they will be in good shape moving forward.

“These are very critical non-conference matchups for us,” Walton said. “At this point in the season, when we play a lot of non conference competition, it helps our ranking. It helps our conferences ranking in the other conferences in the country and can really impact seeding in the NCAA tournament.”

The team's upcoming matches begin at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 and 15 in Worthen Arena.