MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: It's finally here: Ball State hosts rivals, No. 14 Ohio State

Cardinals try to end five-match losing streak to Buckeyes

Ever since Ohio State University took the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament championship from Ball State University last spring, the Cardinals have had revenge on their mind.

Ball State finally has its chance to exact revenge tonight, as No. 14 Ohio State comes to Worthen Arena tonight for another bout with its conference rivals.

"For one, it's a conference match, and obviously it's the team we played for the conference championship last year," middle attacker Anders Nelson said. "So it's a match we've had circled on our calendars. We know that this is our chance to make our biggest statement in our conference this year and we haven't had that signature win yet."

Adding to the hype is the winning streaks both teams have built coming into the match.

Ball State (6-1, 1-1 MIVA) is on a six-match winning streak. The Cardinals' winning streak is tied for the nation's longest active streak with Loyola University, who defeated Ball State in both teams' season opener.

Ohio State (6-4, 3-0 MIVA), meanwhile, is on a five-match winning streak.

"There couldn't be a better build-up to the match," Ball State coach Joel Walton said. "I don't think you have to say a whole lot to get them motivated for the match."

Ball State's freshmen, such as outside attacker Larry Wrather, have never played a ranked team before. But Wrather has also not been a part of the five-match losing streak the Cardinals currently have against the Buckeyes.

"Hopefully, there will be more energy," Wrather said on playing his team's rival. "We've been doing better at keeping energy consistent."

Nelson said the Cardinals will have plenty of experience going into the match with four seniors to Ohio State's two.

"We are pretty familiar with their team," Nelson said. "There are only a couple of new players on each side of the net, so I think the rivalry is going to be there [tonight]."

Walton said the key to the game will be how well Ball State runs its offense.

"We have to more things in our offense and be more consistent with our offense," Walton said. "That's really our biggest pitfall. We've opened up leads against this team in recent years and let those leads evaporate. When we get leads [tonight], we have to fight hard to hold onto them, and the way to do that is to run good offense."

Walton said he wants to take advantage of the Worthen Arena atmosphere as much as possible and is hoping for a strong turnout from the student body.

"It's going to be critical that the Ball State community and the Muncie community comes out and supports our team [tonight]," Walton said. "We want Worthen Arena rocking. It will be that kind of energy that will help our team play at our best."