DAVE'S DIGS: Mental fortitude necessary down the road

Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer dives for the ball in the second set against McKendree Jan. 24 at Worthen Arena. Vander Meer had eight digs. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer dives for the ball in the second set against McKendree Jan. 24 at Worthen Arena. Vander Meer had eight digs. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY

David Polaski is a junior journalism and telecommunications major and writes ‘Dave’s Digs’ for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the paper. Write to David at dmpolaski@bsu.edu

If Ball State can stay collected and win at IPFW, the team can do the same almost anywhere.

It would have been easy and understandable for the men’s volleyball team to be rattled Friday night.

Ball State faced a hostile crowd of 1,060, hundreds more than they’ve seen this season. Everyone was packed inside a small venue with the seating arrangement aligned so the fans were precariously close to the players at all times.

They screamed, yelled, insulted and taunted the Cardinal servers and bench players throughout the match. After many points in which a Ball State player made an error, he walked back to his spot while opposing fans pointed fingers and threw jeers from just a few yards away.

Not once was a finger pointed back.

After occasional blocks and kills from IPFW, the Mastodon bench would erupt. They’d roar, bench players running onto the court to give high-fives, literally beating their chests and punching the air, creating as much ruckus and chaos as possible.

Not once did Ball State complain.

Instead, the Cardinals admirably kept calm and proceeded to upset the then-No. 14 team that did everything it could to shake its concentration. That mental fortitude propelled Ball State through the match, and the players need it in other venues as the season continues.

Even libero David Ryan Vander Meer said he was proud of how his team responded to IPFW’s antics.

Give credit to Vander Meer for not coming unglued after receiving a yellow card for the most trivial of matters. He wasn’t mouthing off to an official, like IPFW was after close calls that didn’t go its way. He wasn’t arguing with an opponent or acting unsportsmanlike.

He was tying his shoe.

It’s a stall tactic to buy time, but not one that ever gets penalized. The Cardinals were visibly stunned when the yellow card went up.

But Ball State didn’t let the surprise call get to them and went on to win the set. It’s a lesson the team will take with it while playing opponents, such as Lewis, on the road that often bring large, frantic crowds. Ball State’s talent is emerging and the last thing the Cardinals can afford is to fail from losing its cool.

Early in the match, an upset IPFW bench player stood up and began walking toward an official, yelling at him. The official turned and began walking toward the player, who quickly sat down.

The official laughed and said to IPFW head coach Arnie Ball, “I’d love to hear from you, but not him.”

Luckily for head coach Joel Walton’s team, IPFW may be the roughest environment his team has to play in this season. The intimidating crowd with the bench antics could have been enough to rattle more experienced players.

But it didn’t rattle Ball State, and it can’t if the team wants to win in other arenas. Ball State must bring a mentality of knowing everybody wants to see them fail and feed on it.

Playing for the passion of exciting your home crowd is strong. Playing for the passion of bringing an opposing crowd to a dead silence is even stronger. It’s what the team must strive for to upset Lewis and No. 2 Loyola.

Friday night, Ball State proved it’s possible.

Though maybe Vander Meer should tie his shoes a little tighter before matches, just in case.