PREVIEW: No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball vs. Grand Canyon
For the second time this season, No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball will be facing the same opponent twice in one week.
This will be a little different than the home-and-away trip against Fort Wayne from earlier this season, as both matches against Grand Canyon on Wednesday and Thursday will be played on Ball State's (13-4, 6-1 MIVA) home court.
"We saw the psychological difficulty that our team faced playing Fort Wayne a few weeks ago, where it's hard in a one-week timespan to turn around and beat a good team twice," Ball State head coach Joel Walton said.
- Home vs. Grand Canyon - 7:30 p.m. on March 1
- Home vs. Grand Canyon - 7:30 p.m. on March 2
- Last meeting: Loss, 2-3 (25-27, 20-25, 25-22, 25-19, 13-15) on Mar. 5, 2016
Grand Canyon (9-7, 5-3 MIVA) has played several of the top teams in the nation very well this season. It defeated No. 5 Lewis 3-2 earlier this year and was the first team to take No. 1 Ohio State to five sets.
Walton said one of the keys to defeating the same team on back-to-back nights is making personnel changes between the two matches.
"I think that we want to make sure that we are using the entirety of our roster," Walton said. "Being able to bring in a different personnel set can make a big impact on our team's ability to play that second night."
Ball State is 6-4 in their last ten matches against Grand Canyon and have split with them, winning one match and losing one, the last two seasons.
"They've done some things with their attacking to just keep our team off-balance," Walton said. "In recent years, they've done a good job of keeping us from locking in defensively."
Two players the Cardinals will be focusing on are two new additions to the Antelopes roster this season — neither of whom are freshmen. Senior middle blocker Drake Silbernagel and senior opposite Matthew Kinnebrew both transferred to Grand Canyon this year.
Kinnebrew, who transferred from Division III Juniata College, is currently fourth on the team with 108 kills and an average of 2.5 kills per set.
Silbernagel transferred from Arizona State, where he played on the club team but never at the collegiate level until this season. He is currently third on the team with 115 kills and second with an attack percentage of .448.
"Some guys like to hit a ball against their body and some like to hit with their thumb to the floor," Walton said. "Silbernagel hits both shots well. He's going to be one that's tough for us to handle if they're passing the ball up at the net and getting him a lot of sets."
This will be the last regular season meeting between Ball State and Grand Canyon as Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association members. After this season, Grand Canyon will be moving to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
"I love the fact that in the last year we play Grand Canyon while they're in our conference, we get to play them at home," Walton said. "We don't have to travel to Arizona and play them on the road, so we need to be able to take advantage of that."
The Cardinals moved up from No. 12 to No. 11 in the NCAA rankings after two wins last week.