After a two-match road sweep, No. 11 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (6-4, 1-0 MIVA) returns home this week to face McKendree (3-4, 0-0 MIVA) and No. 13 George Mason (7-1, 2-0 EIVA) on Feb. 7 and 10.
Head coach Joel Walton said while he is continuing to push for improvement in consistency and passing, there is plenty of reason for optimism after this weekend’s success.
“McKendree’s a conference match, which is really important,” Walton said. “George Mason has been really good this year, and they’re a good team. They’ve pushed us over the last number of years when we’ve played them, and the guys have to stay focused.”
McKendree is coming off last weekend’s three-match Lindenwood Invitational, which saw the team finish 2-1.
In the two teams’ last meeting, the Cardinals swept the Bearcats in Worthen on April 14, 2018 in MIVA quarterfinals play. The match saw the Cardinals outhit the Bearcats .330 to .233. Junior outside attacker Matt Szews tallied 10 kills on the night.
Freshman outside attacker Kaleb Jenness said the team hopes to build off of its success following its last conference match, a 3-1 victory over Ohio State.
“I’m excited to see what [McKendree] has since I honestly don’t know anything about them,” Jenness said. “We hope to keep our offense going because we just got it moving, so hopefully we can pick it up from where it is. We already have a pretty decent defense.”
Jenness was recently named Off The Block’s co-national freshman of the week, while Szews was named MIVA’s defensive player of the week. Szews earned 26 kills and 11 blocks in the Cardinals’ last two matches against Harvard and Sacred Heart.
Jenness leads the Cardinals in kills with 118, averaging 3.19 per set.
Sunday’s match against George Mason will see the two teams meet for the first time since Jan. 26, a 1-3 loss for the Cardinals. The Patriots are also riding a four-match winning streak and face No. 15 Purdue Fort Wayne on Saturday.
Walton said the game plan for both matches will remain very similar, including figuring out what the two teams’ styles of play are and making the most of his team’s familiarity at Worthen Arena.
“We want to try and make them uncomfortable in our gym by taking away some of their strengths,” Walton said. “I’d love to see our guys serve well, and one of the things we’re talking to our guys about is keeping runs of points going. If you’re back behind the service line and score a few points, you want to force the other team out of that instead of allowing them out with a serving error.”