After two road losses, No. 14 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (2-3, 0-0 MIVA) returns home to host No. 12 UC Santa Barbara (3-2, 0-0 Big West) and No. 10 Cal State Northridge (4-1, 0-0 Big West) this Friday and Saturday as part of the Don Shondell Active Ankle Challenge.
The tournament has been an annual tradition for the Cardinals and is held to honor the legacy of Dr. Don Shondell, founder of Ball State’s Men’s Volleyball program. Head coach Joel Walton views the tournament as an opportunity for the team to face some of its top competition before conference play begins.
“UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge both have good wins and it’s going to be another challenge,” Walton said. “It’s going to be matches that force our team to play well and if you’re not playing well, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Walton is aiming for a different result in this year’s challenge compared to last year’s. The Cardinals dropped both of their matches in the 2018 tournament to Stanford and BYU, two opponents the team faced last week.
The team is planning to take full advantage of its comfort at Worthen Arena, as the team rode a 12-match winning streak at home prior to its loss against No. 2 UC-Irvine on January 7.
“Being home is definitely a good thing,” Walton said. “We have to get back on track offensively and I think some of that is just going to be an understanding of how we want our setters to run the offense.”
Although Saturday’s loss resulted in the team falling below a .500 winning percentage, the Cardinals have seen quality production from their veterans this season. Junior outside attacker Matt Szews leads the team in kills with 45 and tallied 22 in last year’s challenge, despite the losses.
Walton said that although he is early in the scouting process for both opponents, he watched parts of Northridge’s 3-0 victory on January 9 against No. 6 UCLA and was impressed by their outside attackers.
“[Northridge] was playing at home, so they were playing the ball and serving very well,” Walton said. “We need to continue to work on serving and passing. You need to be able to do those well to compete at the highest level.”
The No. 10 Matadors have won their last two matches with the team’s only loss coming to No. 15 Grand Canyon on January 5. The No. 12 Gauchos recently dropped two matches to Pepperdine and face UCLA Wednesday before heading to Muncie.