The Cardinals come together after winning a volley against the Lions during the second game on March 30 at John E. Worthen Arena. Ball State won 3 of the 5 games against Lindenwood. Rebecca Slezak, DN
With final matches approaching, Ball State men's volleyball's seniors reflect on their time in program
The final pair of regular season matches has arrived for No. 12 Ball State men’s volleyball, and the team will honor seniors Matt Walsh, Mitch Weiler and Anthony Lebryk ahead of its match against No. 7 Ohio State Saturday.
Head coach Joel Walton said all three of the seniors have had one thing in common during their four years on the team: leading by example.
“All three players — Lebryk, Walsh and Weiler — they’re not huge energy guys,” Walton said. “They’re just guys that kind of go about their business. They step on the court, [and] they play at a pretty high level.”
Matt Walsh, the tallest player to ever play for the program at 6-foot-11, can look up the rally scoring era record books and find his name all over it. The middle attacker sits seventh in career kills (766), sixth in attack percentage (.400), third in service aces (93), second in total blocks (481) and fourth in points (1,123).
“[Walsh] has been a challenge for just about every team that we’ve played,” Walton said. “... He just adds a lot of different wrinkles to how we’re playing in that middle position.”
For Walsh, his time with the team has allowed him to make memories that go beyond his on-the-court accolades.
“Definitely [will remember] all the time spent with the team and just coming in every day, enjoying who I’m with,” Walsh said. “... I feel like I’ve kind of opened up more as I’ve been here.”
One of the teammates Walsh would be referring to is Mitch Weiler. The Oak Lawn, Illinois, native has made his way into some spots in the record books as well. Weiler ranks 20th in kills (554) during the rally scoring era, eighth in digs (529) and 19th in block assists (162).
“Mitch has been somebody that I would categorize as kind of a glue guy,” Walton said. “He goes out and does a lot of the things that aren’t necessarily noticeable, including personality-wise. He’s not a real rah-rah, celebratory kind of guy, and yet, ... it’s always a positive interaction. His play and consistency is something we really rely on.”
Weiler echoed many of the same sentiments as Walsh, raving less about his play on the court and more about his surrounding cast each of his four years with the program.
“Each year we’ve had a great group of guys; guys that I can look up to, brought me in and helped me adjust to the new level of play,” Weiler said. “They’ve really made it special here for my last four years.”
Weiler said one of his fondest memories was his junior year when the team made a run to the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament Semifinals.
“It was a really enjoyable year, and I’m hoping to go into this weekend and go into the playoffs with that same mentality and pull out some wins,” Weiler said.
Anthony Lebryk was around for that tournament run a year ago, and he can find his name in the record books as well.
Lebryk sits 14th in school history in block assists during the rally scoring era with 0.85.
“When he’s had opportunities, we’ve felt like [Lebryk’s] blocking — especially against pin attackers — is something that’s won us a number of matches because ... it just takes away shots that they’re used to being able to hit,” Walton said.
He added that there are some interesting interactions with Lebryk during practices at times, and that’s something he’ll remember about the 6-foot-6 middle attacker.
“He’ll come into practice and make eye contact with me and say something to me; he’s not really being a ‘smart-A,’ but it’s more of just he’s acknowledging ‘Hey, I see you, and I just wanted to say hello,’ so there’s been an interesting connection with that.”
To Lebryk, the team has shared a comradery that he says he’ll remember once his playing days come to an end.
“It’s just been a blast,” Lebryk said. “There’s been a sense of family on this team, and you just know that each guy on our team has your back, and it’s such a positive experience. It flew by; it just feels like yesterday that I was just an incoming freshman coming to practice and feeling all new to me.”
Collectively, each of the three players has contributed to the winning formula Ball State has put together by coming to work and doing their jobs every day. Those are things Walton says he appreciates about his guys.
“As a group, these guys have been great seniors to work with,” Walton said. “They’ve always been very team-focused. It’s not been anything selfish out of those guys. They want to see the team, they want to see the program do well, and they’ve worked hard to make that happen.”
The first of the group’s final regular season matches is against McKendree at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Senior Night will take place just 24 hours later as the team will face No. 7 Ohio State in Worthen Arena for its regular-season finale.