Sophomore middle attacker Matt Walsh attempts to get the ball over the net during the match against Harvard on Jan. 15 at Worthen Arena. The Ball State men's volleyball team will host its first home matches of the season in the Shondell-Active Ankle Challenge on Jan. 12 against Saint Francis and on Jan. 13 against Penn State. Breanna Daugherty // DN File
PREVIEW: Ball State men's volleyball hosts Shondell-Active Ankle Challenge
Cardinals will face Saint Francis and no.13 Penn State
Ball State men's volleyball hosts its first home matches of the season in the Shondell-Active Ankle Challenge Jan. 12 and 13.
The No. 15 Cardinals play Saint Francis Jan. 12 and No. 13 Penn State Jan. 13. Both games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. in Worthen Arena.
Head coach Joel Walton is looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd after a successful start to the season on the road. "When we play in Worthen Arena, there's always a lot of energy in the building," Walton said. "There's good support from both the Muncie community and the student community here on campus, which leads to a really strong home-court advantage for us."
- Jan. 12: Home vs. Saint Francis at 7:30 p.m.
- Last meeting: Loss, 2-3 (21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 22-25, 13-15) on Jan. 24, 2016
- Jan. 13: Home vs. #13 Penn State at 7:30 p.m.
- Last meeting: Loss, 0-3 (15-25, 18-25, 19-25) on Jan. 22, 2016
Saint Francis is 2-1 with wins against California Baptist University and Lindenwood. The Cardinals are 6-4 in their last 10 matches against the Red Flash, with wins in the last two matchups at Worthen Arena.
"They [Saint Francis] return a lot of the players from last year who were instrumental in their success," Walton said. "Their head coach, Mike Rumbaugh, has really worked hard to bring that program up."
Penn State is currently 1-1 on the season with a win against Southern California and a loss to No. 2 UCLA.
The Cardinals are 4-6 in their last 10 matches against Penn State, but they have won the last three times that they’ve met in Muncie, including a 3-2 victory in their most recent home match in 2015.
"They're a very physical team, when they walk into the gym you're going to see four or five guys who are 6'8'' or taller," Walton said. "We want to try and get as much pressure on Penn State's side of the net as we can."
Ball State kept their No.15 preseason rank after going 2-1 in the Outrigger Tournament in Hawaii last weekend, with wins over Princeton (25-17, 22-25, 23-25, 25-19, 21-19) and Erskine College (25-19, 25-10, 25-15) and a loss to No. 6 Hawaii (25-22, 17-25, 23-25, 21-25).
Two players to watch for in these matches are freshman outside attacker Matt Szews and freshman libero Nick Lavanchy. Both Lavanchy and Szews were named to the Outrigger All-Tournament team. Szews finished the trip to Hawaii leading the Cardinals with 38 kills while Lavanchy led the team in digs with 28. Lavanchy is also the only Cardinal to appear in all 12 sets this season.
Another player to watch for is junior middle attacker Matt Walsh, who leads the team with 16 blocks this season.
"I think he was a little bit overlooked as he played a really strong tournament [in Hawaii]," Walton said. "He was someone who was worthy of recognition as well."