After a victorious finish to the Active Ankle Challenge, No. 13 Ball State Men’s’ Volleyball (3-4, 0-0 MIVA) awaits a new challenge Saturday against No. 12 Ohio State (3-3, 0-0 MIVA). The match will see both teams make their conference debuts.
The Buckeyes are coming off a two-match home stand, which saw results similar to the Cardinals’ performance this past weekend. The team fell in its first match to No. 14 George Mason, 1-3, on Jan. 18. However, the Buckeyes defeated Erskine, 3-1, on Jan. 19.
The two teams last met on April 7, 2018, which saw the Cardinals win a 3-2 thriller at Worthen Arena. The match saw junior setter Jake Romano tally 39 assists and sophomore outside attacker Ben Chinnici finish with 11 digs.
With a Buckeyes team entering that is outscoring their opponents 275-217 in kills, head coach Joel Walton says a consistent offensive rhythm remains a major focus, even after Saturday’s win over California State Northridge.
“We’ve been really focused on our offense, and we need to continue that focus,” Walton said. “I was glad to see that our offense got better in our last match. We started to figure out things.”
A significant portion of the Cardinals' consistency this season has come from freshman outside attacker Kaleb Jenness, who has proven to be a nice fit early on. He currently leads the team in kills with 76 and a .304 hitting percentage. The match will be his MIVA debut.
Offensively, the Buckeyes are led by sophomore opposite Jake Hanes. In the Cardinals’ last victory over the Buckeyes, Hanes notched 19 kills. This season, Hanes is averaging 5.48 kills per set.
Walton said he anticipates the match to be very offensive-heavy. He said he is hoping for consistent serving from the Cardinals, who have been outhitting their opponents in aces 1.3-1.2.
“[Ohio State’s] offense has been hitting pretty efficiently this season,” Walton said. “They’ve been a good serving team for a number of years. We have to be ready to face their serve and not let it affect our offense.”
The match will be the Cardinals' first after having a week off to practice. The Cardinals began their season with three matches in four nights at home followed by a road trip out west. Walton said he appreciates the home-court advantage.
“Every match in conference play is critical, and especially the matches you play at home,” Walton said. “It can be difficult to play in certain places in our conference, so we really need to protect our home court, come out with a lot of focus and have determination on Saturday night.”
The Cardinals face the Buckeyes at Worthen Arena Saturday at 7 p.m.