MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State renews rivalry vs. Ohio State with MIVA tourney seeding on the line

No. 15 Cardinals are 1-7 against ranked opponents this season and winless on the road

The No. 11 Ohio State University men's volleyball team has not lost a conference home match this season. No. 15 Ball State University is the only challenger remaining as the two rivals square off at 7 p.m. today in Columbus, Ohio.

With the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament a week away, the Cardinals have not defeated a ranked opponent while playing away all season. Ball State is also 1-7 against ranked opponents this season.

"It would be good to have momentum and confidence going into the conference tournament, knowing we just beat them," outside attacker Matt Sprague said. "We would put a seed of doubt in their mind."

The Buckeyes (18-7, 10-1 MIVA) are the defending MIVA champions and have swept the Cardinals in the conference championship match the last two seasons. The two schools have already played in Muncie this season with the Buckeyes getting the sweep.

Coach Joel Walton said he thinks the familiarity between the two schools may present some strategy problems.

"Because we know each other so well, they are going to take away things from us that they think we are going to do," Walton said. "We're going to try to take away things from them that they will want to do. It's going to come down to what players are going to overcome scouting. What player can do a few things differently, or what player is just going to rise to the challenge of those key moments."

Ohio State comes into the match with an eight-match winning streak and is in first place in the conference. They hold the tiebreaker with No. 13 Loyola University (18-4, 10-1 MIVA). Ball State (17-9, 6-4 MIVA) can secure the No. 3 seed in the MIVA Tournament by defeating Ohio State on Friday and Loyola on Saturday at Worthen Arena.

Lewis University (16-9, 5-5 MIVA) is the No. 4 seed and can move up with a Ball State loss and by winning both its matches against last-place Lewis University. Lewis owns the tiebreaker with Ball State.

Ball State will most likely play either IPFW or Quincy University in the MIVA Tournament quarterfinals on April 24 at Worthen Arena.

Walton said he thinks Ball State will have to have a strong serving performance to beat Ohio State.

"A lot of it starts from the serving line, and our guys have to get behind the serving line and serve an aggressive ball and still put it in play," Walton said.