MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Road to 1,000
After 1,401 matches, 45 years, 19 MIVA titles and 15 NCAA appearances,
As players walked onto the court in celebration following Lee Meyer's kill to end Friday's match, coach Joel Walton turned away from the court to look into the Worthen Arena crowd.
It didn't take the 11th-year head coach long to find the man he was trying to congratulate.
With his wife standing next to him and wearing the same blue Volleycards track jacket he wore throughout the 1990s, Ball State University's original men's volleyball coach Don Shondell stood clapping.
Forty-five years since fighting his athletic director to make men's volleyball a varsity sport, Shondell continued to clap for about five minutes after witnessing the program's newest milestone.
Ball State swept the Milwaukee School of Engineering to win its 1,000th match in program history - a feat Shondell said he did not even consider a possibility when the team played its first match as a varsity team in 1964.
"I never even thought about it," Shondell said. "I don't think about wins at all."
With Friday's win, Ball State joined UCLA as the only NCAA men's volleyball team to win 1,000 matches. It also became the first Ball State sport started after World War II to reach 1,000 wins.
Having played for Shondell in the late 1980s, Walton said the win was more meaningful for him because it was the final match of a four-match home stand. As a result, Walton said, it gave his mentor, who still lives in Muncie, a chance to be a part of the historical win.
"It's been through the 20 years plus that I've had here, being coached by Don Shondell and then assistant coaching for Don Shondell that I really learned to appreciate what our program is," Walton said. "What it is is a rich tradition and rich history of great athletes being taught how to play the game of volleyball."
An original member of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, Ball State has won 21 conference championships. The The Cardinals have also had 68 all-conference players and 15 players win the MIVA Player of the Year award.
Shondell finished his Ball State coaching career 769-280-6 after retiring at the end of the 1998 season.
When he first started coaching the Cardinals, winning championships was not his concern. Instead, the Hall of Fame coach said his first priority was changing the public's perception of volleyball.
"When I started coaching volleyball they thought it was a picnic sport, a beach sport and sport for girls," he said.
Forming the first teams from basketball players cut from Ball State's tryout, the men's volleyball team spent five years as a club sport.
Throughout his time as the club's coach, Shondell said he received limited support the university to make men's volleyball a varsity sport. The coach also said it took a six-month debate before the university finally agreed to sponsor men's volleyball.
"We had a number of people who didn't feet it should be. They were pretty much led by our athletic director who didn't think volleyball much of a game at all," Shondell said. "The other people were physical education people basically who believed like I did that the role of Ball State was to try to be a leader in new sports and development in new sports."
With men's volleyball becoming a NCAA sport in 1970, the Cardinals have advanced to 15 NCAA Tournaments.
This type of success, former all-conference player Dave Shondell said, has made men's volleyball team the face of Ball State. Dave Shondell, the son of Don Shondell and currently Purdue University women's volleyball coach, said when he played in the late 1970s men's volleyball was the only reason why a majority of the country knew about Ball State.
"If you where in an airport in Los Angeles or Pittsburgh and if you mention Ball State, back then volleyball would come to mind," he said.
Greg Romano, a three-time all-conference outside attacker from 1993-95, said the most impressive thing about Ball State's run is its longevity. In the program's 45-year history, Ball State has had four losing seasons.
One of the greatest reasons for this, Dave Schakel - the 1973 MIVA Player of Year and now a professor at Texas A&M -¡- said was because of Don Shondell.
"He always wanted the best for all of us," Schakel said. "He wouldn't slack off and would go extra mile for an individual player. Coach Shondell was a special man."
With the win Friday, the Cardinals will play two more matches against Division III teams, before returning home to play a conference match against IPFW on Feb. 27.
Most likely returning to his seat in Worthen Arena to watch that match, Don Shondell said the last thing on mind will be winning so Ball State is closer to reaching another milestone.
"The number of wins I don't worry about," he said. "I just wanted to see volleyball grow."