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.
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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.
Replacing two starting outside attackers will be hard enough for Ball State head coach Joel Walton and his men’s volleyball team when they open the season Saturday. He said true freshman Brenden Surane would start on the right side at outside attacker, hoping to help replace the graduated Greg Herceg and Jamion Hartley. There will be no time for Surane to adjust, not when the first match is against defending national champion UC Irvine. “We don’t have to be perfect,” Walton said.
When the Ball State men’s volleyball head coach Joel Walton thought of leadership, his mind immediately went to senior Kevin Owens. Seconds later, Walton jumped to senior Graham McIlvaine.
With about a month remaining until the start of the men’s volleyball regular season, two Ball State players have set high expectations. Middle attackers Matt Leske and Kevin Owens were named second-team preseason All-American by Off The Block/Springback.
Strategies that Ball State women’s volleyball head coach Steve Shondell preached all season seemed to vanish at the Mid-American Conference Tournament. During the 31-game regular season, his team relied on accurate passing, a lights-out defense and swarming energy to vault them to a 24-7 record. It may have been injuries, Western Michigan’s game plan or the grind of playing 116 sets throughout the regular season that played a factor in Ball State’s first-round loss. Whichever it was, there was something missing from Ball State on Friday night. “We could have had more intensity tonight,” sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling said.
As she laid out, body fully outstretched toward the net, setter Jacqui Seidel gave the crucial point every ounce of energy she had in her body. The ball came crashing down to the left of her arm. So the Ball State women’s volleyball team’s season as well. Ball State lost in four sets (25-17, 24-26, 20-25, 21-25) in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament for the second season. The loss was the team’s first to Western Michigan as Ball State knocked off the team twice earlier in the season. “Tonight, they were making the plays that we were making last week,” Ball State head coach Steve Shondell said about Western Michigan.
It’s now or never for Mindy Marx. The senior middle blocker for the Ball State women’s volleyball team has made three trips to the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Ball State: #1 Mackenzie Kitchel, outside hitter #2 Alex Fuelling, outside hitter: Fuelling led Ball State with 340 kills despite missing four games with an ankle injury.
The third time may be the charm for Western Michigan, but not if Catie Fredrich and Lauren Grant can help it.
_David Polaski is a junior journalism and telecommunications major and writes ‘Dave’s Digs’ for the Daily News.