With the regular season under wraps, and the postseason officially upon us, it’s now win or go home for No. 11 Ball State men’s volleyball and the rest of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.
Riding a four-match winning streak, which includes a marquee comeback victory over No. 7 Ohio State to finish the regular season, Ball State looks to have built some momentum entering the MIVA Tournament.
Ball State’s strong finish to the regular season earned the team the third seed in the conference tournament (17-11, 10-4 MIVA), and the team will host McKendree (11-14, 6-8 MIVA) in the quarterfinal round. The Cardinals split their regular season series with the Bearcats, each winning on their home court.
Both teams tout players in the top 15 in multiple categories. For Ball State, Matt Walsh ranks 11th in kills with 253, while Matt Szews sits 8th at 267. Senior outside hitter Nolan Rueter paces McKendree with 257 kills to sit 10th in the conference.
On defense, both teams bring top 10 blockers into this matchup. Matt Walsh is tied with Lewis’s Tyler Mitchem for first in blocks per set at 1.18. Brendan Schmidt leads McKendree with .97 per set, which is good for 8th in the conference.
If Ball State wins Saturday’s matchup against McKendree, it will move on to the MIVA Tournament Semifinals to face the winner of No. 6 Loyola-Chicago and Lindenwood’s quarterfinal matchup on Wednesday, April 18. Should Loyola knock off Lindenwood, Ball State would travel to Chicago for a third match with the Ramblers. Ball State went 1-1 against Loyola in the regular season, winning in four sets at home and ending up on the wrong end of a sweep when it traveled to Chicago.
However, if a competitive Lindenwood team were to defeat Loyola like it did on April 5 and Ball State defeat McKendree, the Cardinals would host the semifinal round of the tournament. Lindenwood’s 3-11 conference record doesn’t show how competitive the team has been in many of its matches. The Lions have forced a fifth set in five of their conference losses, including a loss to the Cardinals in which they let multiple match point opportunities slip away. Ball State ended up defeating Lindenwood in both meetings between the two teams.
Ball State last made the MIVA Tournament Championship in 2009, where it fell to Ohio State in straight sets. The winner of the MIVA Tournament will receive a bid to the NC Men’s Volleyball Championship.
Saturday’s quarterfinal match against McKendree is set to start at 7:30 p.m.