MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: West coast whomping
Ball State upsets 19-time national champion UCLA twice, becomes first Cards team to beat the Bruins since 1995
As Don Shondell sat in the stands at Worthen Arena on Friday he couldn't help but feel worried that No. 7 UCLA would comeback facing a match-point with the score 29-24.
Having beaten UCLA once in his 34-year coaching career, the retired Ball State University men's volleyball coach could only watch the No. 14 Cardinals attempt to beat the 19-time NCAA Champion Bruins in the tournament that bares his name.
However, when outside attacker Ryal Jagd's attempted kill landed out-of-bounds, and the Cardinals won the first match of the Don Shondell Challenge, all of Shondell's previous emotions were replaced with one emotion: happiness.
"We just didn't let them off the hook," Shondell said. "Over the years we've been in that position a number of times against UCLA and haven't been able to close it out. They just played so steady."
With its Friday four-game win, the Cardinals completed the weekend sweep against the Bruins on Saturday, defeating UCLA 30-21, 30-26, 30-24.
Prior to this weekend, UCLA had not played a road regular season match against a team from the Midwest since 1994 and was 21-1 all-time against Ball State, with the lone loss coming against Shondell's 1995 team.
Coach Joel Walton said to become the first team in school history to beat the Bruins twice in a season is a special achievement and one of his top-five greatest wins as a head coach. He also said the wins were important because they occurred at the Don Shondell Classic.
"There is no better way to honor him than the way our team played Friday and Saturday night," Walton said. "They put a little bit of an asterisk by their name for accomplishing what they did this weekend."
Outside attacker Patrick Durbin said this weekend was the greatest non-conference wins in his college career, especially with his team now being linked the 1995 men's volleyball team.
"We've been told all along that the 1995 team is possibly the best Ball State ever had," he said. "To know that we are in that category and playing that well to be placed in that same category is amazing."
In addition, Durbin said the wins are significant because they came against a team from the West Coast.
With West Coast teams winning all but one NCAA men's volleyball championships since 1970, prior to the match Ball State players said there was bias against teams from the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.
However, after the two wins libero Ian Peckler said the Cardinals (12-6, 5-1 MIVA) are disproving the notion that the West Coast is superior.
"I'm just ecstatic right now. You don't get a chance to play a West Coast team very often, especially the caliber of UCLA in your own building," Peckler said. "It's the biggest wins I've been involved in. It was a great opportunity to show them what Midwest volleyball is all about and I think we obviously accomplished that this weekend."
Ball State is on a five-match winning streak against nationally ranked teams, its longest streak in more than five seasons. In addition, the Cardinals have won 11 of their last 12 matches.
Originally predicted to finish in fifth place in the conference during the preseason polls, the first-place Cardinals now expect to win their first MIVA championship since 2002, Peckler said.
"There is no one in our conference that can stop us as long we keep on the roll that we're on," he said.