Ball State players jump to a huddle after scoring two points in a row against the Lions, Jan. 6, at John E. Worthen Arena. Ball State swept the Lions, in three straight sets, 16-25, 15-25, 12-25. Grace Hollars, DN
Ball State men’s volleyball hosts No. 6 BYU, Stanford over weekend
Ball State men’s volleyball has yet to lose a set this season.
The Cardinals will look to build on a 2-0 record when it hosts two powerhouse teams in No. 6 Brigham Young on Friday and Stanford on Saturday.
The No. 14 Cardinals have jumped out in dominant fashion gaining wins over Lees-Mcrae College and Emmanuel College in the first weekend of the season. But with the abundance of talent the Cougars and the Cardinals bring, head coach Joel Walton knows this weekend won’t be as easy.
“This weekend is going to be a good early season test for us,” Walton said.
While Stanford (0-3) has underperformed after being ranked No. 8 in the Coaches Preseason Poll, freshman outside attacker Jaylen Jasper recorded 20 kills in the teams five set loss to Princeton in its season opener. While Jasper leads the team in kills, he does so in errors as well.
Walton is no stranger to Jasper. He coached him this summer during his time as the head of delegation for the United States Youth National Team, which competed in the World Championships in Bahrain.
“He’s physical as heck and this summer he wasn’t playing very confidently,” Walton said. “I think he’s going to figure it out and get his confidence at some point, we just don’t want it to be this week.”
BYU (1-1) is off to a promising start this season with wins over No. 11 Lewis and a five-set loss to No. 7 Loyola. Walton said he thinks while both teams will be tough, BYU will be the bigger test for his team. He describes facing the Cougars as facing a bully.
“We can’t back down,” Walton said. “We got to take the shots they’re going to throw at us and we got to hit some shots back at them.”
Walton is facing another familiar foe in BYU’s opposite hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez. Walton coached against Fernandez who played for Puerto Rico in the World Championships. The freshman recorded 12 kills and five blocks in the teams first win of the season.
For the Cardinals, Walton couldn’t have asked for a better start. Starting his senior season, middle attacker Matt Walsh has once again been a disruptive presence at the net. Through two matches Walsh already has racked up 10 blocks.
“Matt Walsh just gives us a real presence in the front row,” Walton said. “He demands attention from the other team.”
While winning any match is important, Walton said these nonconference matchups are crucial for the teams postseason hopes. While the goal is to win the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, getting an outright bid to the NCAA tournament just got a little more exciting, as the bracket is growing from six to seven teams this season.
Ball State’s 10 nonconference matchups will play a huge role in deciding its postseason fate.
“All those things are going to filter in to putting together a body of work that would qualify us to get one of those at large bids,” Walton said.
Walton is excited for the type of atmosphere that comes with hosting top Mountain Pacific Sports Federation teams.
“We want to have an incredible match environment,” Walton said. “It’s going to be an opportunity for people to come and see future Olympians because those are the types of players we have on our team and those are the types of players we’re going to be competing against.”
Both matches are slated for 7:30 p.m. in Worthen Arena.
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