PREVIEW: Ball State men's volleyball heads to the East Coast for two matches
- Jan. 20: Away vs. Harvard at 7 p.m.
- Last meeting: Win, 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-23) on Jan. 15, 2016
- Jan. 21: Away vs. Sacred Heart at 7 p.m.
- Last meeting: Win, 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-22) on Jan. 14, 2016
Ball State men’s volleyball travels to Massachusetts and Connecticut this weekend for matches against Harvard University and Sacred Heart University.
The No. 13 Cardinals play the Harvard Crimson at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 and then travel almost three hours south for a match against the Sacred Heart Pioneers at 7 p.m. Jan. 21.
Ball State has played Harvard each the last three years and is 2-1 in those matches, with the one loss coming on the Crimsons' home court in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“The last time we played at Harvard, we just never got comfortable and never got into any rhythm,” head coach Joel Walton said. “Part of that is because they run a very fast tempo set so they put pressure on your defense.”
Harvard is 0-2 this season, but both losses were against two ranked opponents, No. 8 Lewis and No. 9 Loyola-Chicago.
“We can’t just look at Harvard’s record and see that they’re 0-2 and think that it’s going to be an easy match, because it won’t,” Walton said. “It’s always harder to serve tough in someone else’s gym and sometimes it can be difficult to pass and get into your offense as well.”
The Crimson are led by senior outside hitter Casey White, who leads the team with 18 kills and averages 2.25 kills per set.
“What Casey White does is he will move the ball around a lot and you’re not really sure where he’s going to go,” Walton said. “He’s a hard player to scout because of that, so that’s going to be a challenge.”
Sacred Heart is 2-0 on the season with both wins coming against North Greenville. Ball State has won its last eight matches against Sacred Heart, but four of the eight matches have gone at least four sets.
“They’re a competitive team, and when you put a lot of travel on your team and step into someone else’s gym, it gets hard to be successful on another team’s court,” Walton said.
The Pioneers are led by senior right side hitter Christopher DeLucie, who has 13 kills on the season.
“When we played them here at home last year, [DeLucie] was a very physical and aggressive player,” Walton said. “He’s somebody that we’re going to have to pay attention to and do a good job on.”
The Cardinals were led by a solid offensive attack in their two wins against St. Francis and No. 15 Penn State in the Shondell-Active Ankle Challenge. Walton said a lot of that is thanks to senior setter Connor Gross, who is becoming used to setting for this group of players.
“As we get more familiar with each other and go through different situations, Connor is getting better at knowing who will play confident in some of the more pressured situations that we’re going to get into,” Walton said.