Freshman Ben Chinnci blocks the ball during the first game on March 31 against Quincy at John E. Worthen Arena. Chinnci had five blocks during the three games. Rebecca Slezak, DN
No. 15 Ball State Men's Volleyball looks to focus on mentality against Loyola-Chicago, Lewis
After defeating EIVA opponents Saint Francis and Penn State, No. 15 Ball State Men’s Volleyball (12-10, 3-4) will aim to extend its three-match win streak against No. 10 Loyola-Chicago (13-7, 6-2 MIVA) and No. 7 Lewis (17-4, 8-0 MIVA) on this upcoming weekend.
With seven regular season matches left, head coach Joel Walton said the Cardinals need to take complete advantage of the team’s comfort at Worthen Arena before heading on a five-match road trip next week.
“I think Friday’s match against Saint Francis may have been our most consistent match all season, but conference play is a little different,” Walton said. “Each one of these conference matches is so important. Right now, we’re not where we want to be in the conference standings, but there’s still plenty of time to start putting a lot of wins in that column.”
Despite the Cardinals’ sub-.500 record in conference action, the team was victorious its last two conference matches on March 1 and 2 against Lindenwood and Quincy. Junior middle attacker Lemuel Turner said his team’s win streak has contributed to increased levels of energy off and on the court, but the overall focus cannot be lost.
“Physically, we’re doing great right now, but we need to work on our mentality,” Turner said. “I think our wins against Saint Francis and Penn State really showed what we’re capable of. Volleyball is a very mental game, so we need to believe that we’re better than the guys across the net.”
Walton is aiming a different result in Thursday’s match against the Ramblers compared to the Cardinals’ 3-1 loss to Loyola on Feb. 16. The Cardinals took the first set, 29-27, but 20 kills from Ramblers’ senior outside hitter Colin Mahan proved to be too much for the team as Loyola took the final three sets to win the match.
The Ramblers are currently on a four-match losing streak, but have outhit their opponents 1042-868 in kills.
“I think we let that match [to Loyola] slip away,” Walton said. “We had moments in our play when we were good, but we allowed some runs of points. I think it’s all about consistency.”
Saturday’s match against Lewis will see the Cardinals face a red-hot Flyers team which is currently riding a ten-match win streak. The Flyers are led defensively by redshirt senior Libero Michael Simmons, who was named MIVA Defensive Player of the Week for the period ending March 17.
The Cardinals previously faced the Flyers on Feb. 15, which saw the team suffer 18 attack errors and 14 service errors in a 3-0 loss. Walton said consistent serving is the team’s top focus heading into Saturday’s match. This was an area the Cardinals greatly struggled with in their last meeting with the Flyers.
“We need to do a better job with our serve at home,” Walton said. “We need to control [Lewis’] offense, which we didn’t do last time. I hope this sits with the guys in a way that motivates them.”
Walton said confidence and having the right mindset will be key in both matches, and consistent play at Worthen Arena could go a long way in the team’s season-ending road trip.
“I still think there’s time to get a top seed in the MIVA tournament, but that is for sure the best case scenario and we’re going to have to work very hard to do that,” Walton said. “We want [Loyola and Lewis] to be aware that we’re capable of beating them this year, and we want to be the team that nobody wants to play at the end of this season.”