MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State takes on King College from upstart conference
Walton wants to help the sport grow
King College is not a name that with star power, but when it takes on No. 15 Ball State University at 7:30 p.m in Worthen Arena. it will be proof that volleyball is a growing sport.
The Tornado is based in Bristol, Tenn., and is one of the few southern colleges to field a men's volleyball team. They belong to Conference Carolinas which has five Division II teams.
The conference likely won't send a team to the NCAA Tournament, but coach Joel Walton said he hopes that changes soon.
"I believe that with five members for sure, and a sixth in a period of years, the NCAA would give them an automatic bid as a conference for the NCAA tournament," he said.
There are three automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, including the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association's tournament champion, and one at-large school.
"We are hoping that Conference Carolinas comes and forces the NCAA to change the tournament and make it bigger," Walton said. "Put more teams in."
This would benefit Ball State, increasing their chances of obtaining an at-large bid in the future.
With the growth of the sport in mind, Walton will continue to put King College and its fellow conference members on Ball State's schedule. Friday will be the first meeting between the teams.
"We are going to continue to play more teams out of Conference Carolinas," Walton said. "Try to get them up and running. So when they do get that automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament, they will be able to send a representative that will be able to compete with the rest of the country."
King College is 12-5 and is tied for third in its conference with a 4-4 record.
Ball State is 15-9 (6-4 MIVA) and wraps up its nonconference schedule this weekend with a Saturday match against St. Francis University. Ball State defeated Saint Francis 3-1 on Feb. 20.
The Cardinals are currently the No. 3 seed for the MIVA tournament but could move up to the two seed or down to the four seed by the end of the season.
The MIVA Tournament is just two weeks away, but players know the non-conference action this weekend still matters.
"We go into every game with the same mindset," outside attacker Lee Meyer said. "You obviously want to play your best whether it's conference or non-conference. Our teams in our conference will be looking at these matches to see how we play."