Things couldn't be much worse for the Ball State University men's volleyball team than they were Feb. 19.
Ball State had just been embarrassed at Penn State University in a three-game sweep that was documented on the Big Ten Network, providing national exposure for one of Ball State's worst matches of the season.
"The last time we played Penn State it wasn't pretty," middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic said. "But it really wasn't us either. We were not doing a good job passing, not doing a good defensive job. Everyone was frustrated, not with the loss in general but how we played. We didn't show Penn State what we really were. We didn't play to our potential."
Tonight's match in Worthen Arena against No. 9 Penn State will be an opportunity for No. 15 Ball State to avenge that loss.
"For our guys it's a chance to redeem themselves, because we played about as poorly as we could have played when we played in their gymnasium earlier in the season," coach Joel Walton said.
Ball State is coming off its first victory against a ranked team this season, sweeping No. 3 California State University Northridge on Saturday. Walton, however, doesn't want his team to stop there.
"Our season to this point has been filled with not achieving," he said. "Our body of work against ranked opponents, teams we've typically been able to beat on a regular basis, we've struggled."
Penn State has two American Volleyball Coaches Association first-team All-Americans in Will Price and Max Lipsitz. The Nittany Lions also have three second-team AVCA All-Americans in Dennis Del Valle, Edgardo Goas and Joe Sunder. Ball State has players on the All-Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association team but none are All-Americans.
"Even those players who are All-Americans have weaknesses, and we want to take advantage of those weaknesses," Walton said. "We have to serve well, try to pick up aces. You got to put good serves in play and aces will happen."
In Ball State's win over Cal State Northridge, Ball State had balance from every position. Walton said it will take a similar performance to beat Penn State.
"Offensively we have to get [setter] Ethan [Pheister] to the net, we have to pass well," Walton said. "We have to be able to run a varied offense. They are looking for tendencies within rotations and if we get into pattern in a specific rotation, they are going to have a variety of schemes to limit our effectiveness."
Ball State is 13-8 (4-4 MIVA) and has seven matches left in the regular season. Penn State enters the match at 18-5.
"The key for us is always the serve-pass game," outside attacker Eric Schulte said. "We've always been struggling with our serves getting it in consistently and aggressively."
Who: No. 15 Ball State men's volleyball
What: Match vs. No. 9 Penn State
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Worthen Arena
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