Ball State walked off the court last spring with its 13 match winning streak shattered, players wondering what went wrong. But when the Ball State men’s volleyball team hosts No.
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Maybe Ball State should just stay on the bus. The Cardinals men’s volleyball team knocked off both Quincy and Lindenwood over the weekend, extending its road-winning streak to five. Over those five matches, Ball State won 15 sets, each one by an average of over five points per set. The team’s streak comes after it dropped its first two road matches, gaining experiences it has used to succeed as of late. “We were tense, uptight, and that really translated into inability to play,” Ball State head coach Joel Walton said of his team’s early-season road loss against Penn State.
During a match, the current play is the only thing on a player’s mind. That can change when the team is on a bus, traveling to or from an away game. For the second time in a week, the Ball State men’s volleyball team will be loading onto a bus and traveling to road matches, missing class in the process. For some players, keeping their grades up when they can’t be in class isn’t always easy. “It’s been rough, this year especially because I’m in anatomy,” outside attacker Matt Sutherland said.
There’s nothing left to hold back during a fifth set. Ball State has proven that recently. Over the men’s volleyball team’s last three games, two of them have gone to a fifth set. Both times, Ball State slammed the door in its opponents face. “You don’t want to be passive because it’s not a game where you approach hoping to win points or waiting to see what happens,” head coach Joel Walton said.
Nothing was going right. The Ball State men’s volleyball players’ attacks were being rejected at the net by Princeton University’s two- and three-person blocks.
Ball State came back to knock off Princeton University Saturday night after dropping the first two sets and winning in five (21-25), (19-25), (22-20), (26-24), (15-4). Cardinals outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski set a new career-high in kills with 25, adding seven digs. The offense struggled as a whole during the first two sets, hitting .000 partway through the second set. With the third set tied at 16, Ball State went on a 4-0 run spurred by kills on behalf of Niemczewski and Matt Sutherland.
Ball State men’s volleyball head coach Joel Walton ran his finger down the left side of a freshly printed roster, looking for players who didn’t have the luxury of playing for a high school team. There were just three out of 19.
Ball State men’s volleyball players Marcin Niemczewski and David Ryan Vander Meer won weekly awards for their efforts against IPFW, according to an email from Jessica Souto, media relations assistant director. Niemczewski was named the AVCA player of the week.
_David Polaski is a junior journalism and telecommunications major and writes ‘Dave’s Digs’ for the Daily News.
When Ball State played IPFW Friday, the players knew they’d need to have their best defensive effort of the season. But with Shane Witmer’s solo block atthe end of the match, the Cardinals accomplished that goal. “The blockers played a great game, and when attackers are forced to go around that, you’ve got a great picture of the ball,” Ball State libero David Ryan Vander Meer said.
When IPFW hosts Ball State on Friday night, there will be former Cardinals coaching from both benches. Ball State alumni will lead both of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association teams.
In the days leading up to Ball State’s match against McKendree, head coach Joel Walton said that McKendree “wouldn’t be the toughest team we face this season.” Nobody would have expected them to be—not a program that was just formed and was playing its first volleyball match in history. Ball State swept McKendree (25-13), (25-15), (25-13) in a match where some of Ball State’s backups saw more time than the starters. Connor Gross and Alex Pia played throughout the third set, showing flashes of both talent and youth, much like their opponents across the net did. “Alex played well, he had some good swings, hit an overpass pretty well,” Walton said, grinning.
Ball State has found its young anchor four matches into the season, but the offense will collapse unless veterans step up to balance the attack.
Energy crackles through Worthen Arena seconds before the start of every men’s volleyball match. Hiago Garchet feels the liveliness.
Losing the top two offensive threats for any team can instantly create problems. It’s no different for the Ball State men’s volleyball team after graduating Greg Herceg and Jamion Hartley, the two top offensive players last season. Head coach Joel Walton’s team is experiencing an adjustment period on offense, unsure of which players should get the most opportunities to attack. The starting lineup constantly changes, and Walton said he expects it to continue to change until the offense starts producing better. “We’re trying to find a group that can produce offense, play good defense [and] work together well on the court,” Walton said.
A volleyball cut through the air, barely rotating as it tipped the top of the net and fell backward. Senior Larry Wrather frowned and shook his head, unhappy with the result. “One more,” he said quietly to his teammate next to him toward the end of Tuesday morning’s practice.
Tied at 23 with the second set hanging in the balance, Ball State waited for Sacred Heart to serve. Maybe Larry Wrather would receive the serve, pass to Graham McIlvaine, who would set the ball for Marcin Niemczewski to get a kill.
Headline: Sights set on first win David Polaski | Assistant Sports Editor @DavidPolaski It’s hard to make a game plan for an opponent when there’s nothing to see. That’s the problem for Joel Walton, the Ball State men’s volleyball head coach.
Just days into the start of the men’s volleyball season, there’s nothing definite about starting lineups. Joel Walton is no stranger to that.
For one freshman outside attacker, his first match Saturday night was against likely the most difficult opponent of the season. Ball State’s Brendan Surane made his collegiate debut under the bright lights of Worthen Arena, for a college that has won over 20 conference championships, facing two-time defending national champion UC Irvine — ranked first in the country.