Ball State Men's Volleyball heads east to face Harvard, Sacred Heart

<p>Junior Parker Swartz cheers after winning a volley against Quincy in the second game on March 31 at John E. Worthen Arena. The Ball State Cardinals won all three games played. <strong>Rebecca Slezak, DN</strong></p>

Junior Parker Swartz cheers after winning a volley against Quincy in the second game on March 31 at John E. Worthen Arena. The Ball State Cardinals won all three games played. Rebecca Slezak, DN

Beginning conference play on a high note Saturday with a 3-1 win over No. 14 Ohio State, no. 11 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (4-4, 1-0 MIVA) will travel this weekend to face Harvard (1-4, 1-0 EIVA) and Sacred Heart (1-3, 0-1 EIVA) on Feb. 1 and 2.

The Cardinals remain winless in their two road matches this season. While head coach Joel Walton is pleased with his team’s improved levels of energy, a consistent offense remains a primary focus. 

“We’re still not where we want to be with our offense, even with gutting out a couple wins” Walton said. “There’s still a lot of things that this team can work on and get better at. I like the fact that we’ve shown we’re highly competitive against highly ranked teams.”

Friday’s match at Harvard will end a stretch of matches against six consecutive ranked opponents for the Cardinals. However, Walton expects the match to be competitive as the Crimson have also been working on consistency with a variety of lineup changes.

“The trick for [Harvard] is that a month ago, they were playing a different lineup and something’s happened with one of their players,” Walton said. “We’re not sure exactly what happened, but without him, they’ve changed other players into different positions.”

The Cardinals defeated the Crimson, 3-1, in the teams’ last meeting on Jan. 20, 2018 in Worthen Arena. Saturday’s match will see the Cardinals face the Pioneers for the first time since Jan. 19, 2018. The match was a 3-2 victory for the Cardinals and saw junior setter Jake Romano tally 42 assists. 

Although the Pioneers remain two matches below a .500 win percentage, the team is averaging 11.57 kills per set compared with the Cardinals’ 11.03. The Pioneers are led on offense by junior middle hitter Rob Chatterton and sophomore outside hitter Shawn Tischler. 

“Sacred Heart is a group of guys that we’ve seen,” Walton said. “One of our guys called them ‘Sports Performance East’ and Sports Performance is a club out of the Chicago area. There’s three guys that are starting for Sacred Heart that played for that club, so we’re familiar with some of their players and that’s a good thing as we go into the matchup.”

Freshman outside attacker Kaleb Jenness is excited for the road trip, as it gives him a chance to bond with teammates off the court. Jenness said that while the team’s recent victories have been a major confidence booster, he is still looking to improve his defense and serving.

“I’m still looking to improve behind the service line,” Jenness said. “I’ve been making a lot of errors, and I’m trying to make more plays on defense. As a team, we’ve had some troubles with offense early on, so we need to start strong early and keep it going through.”

Walton said the team’s determination will be a key factor in both matches.

“On the road, it’s just a little natural to be uncomfortable, because you’re playing in an environment that you’re not used to playing in,” Walton said. “We want to make sure that when our guys step on the court, they understand what our game plan is. We want to make sure they’re determined to play well.”

Contact Connor Smith with any comments at cnsmith@bsu.edu or on Twitter @cnsmithbsu

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