With Burris and Ball State, Muncie has always had a strong volleyball tradition. Last year one team quietly put together a splendid season and is looking for more respect on the national level.
Ball State's women's club volleyball team won two tournaments and finished second in three others last year. Its schedule is based only on tournaments, allowing for no single matches. About 12 teams play in each tournament, Shellie Hoffmann, the coach and outside hitter, said.
Last year's final ranking posted the Cardinals at seventh in the nation, and qualified the team for nationals in Dallas, but it never made the trip south.
The Cardinals started the year ranked second out of 91 club teams, behind only Purdue. The second set of rankings dropped the team to fourth because it did not play any matches between the ranking publications.
"We didn't go to nationals because it was in Dallas, Texas, and the girls didn't want to miss classes," Hoffmann said. "The nationals tournament is about $800, plus money to get there, plus travel expenses and lodging, so that was a big part of it as well."
This year, nationals is in Columbus, Ohio, and if the team qualifies, it will have enough money in the budget to go, Hoffmann said.
Passion for the game of volleyball and the overall skill of the team played an important role in last year's success.
"It's a combination of things," said Mandy Dues, a senior setter. "There's a lot of talent available, but the organization with Shellie [Hoffmann] in charge is important. Everybody wants to come to practice and be good."
The chemistry on the court also factored into the winning equation.
"Each of us had our own individual skill, and it complimented everyone else," said Jen Waterman, a sophomore back row player.
The strong volleyball community of Muncie has contributed to the quick growth of the second year program as well.
"Muncie is so well-known for volleyball, and I felt like we had a lot of talent to start out from," Dues said.
Halfway through the year, the Cardinals were dealt a blow, but were able to bounce back and continue with their winning ways.
"Between first and second semester last year we lost three starters, and we were still able to finish second in the next tournament we played in," Dues said.
The club team functions like a junior varsity team, Hoffmann said, which means players have the chance to move up to varsity. Both Hoffmann and Waterman made the varsity team this fall as walk-on players, but Hoffmann said she did not know when they would see action. During the waiting period both will play for the club team.
This season, 11 of the 18 players are returning from last year's team. All six starters are back as well, and expectations are high.
"We should qualify for nationals again this year," Dues said. "We have so much talent. We have our first and second team, but I wouldn't even call them that. They're both so good."
The Cardinals first game is in October in a tournament at Purdue. The first home tournament will be in early November, in Irving Gym on the main floor. Matches are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.