Ball State men’s volleyball secures 3rd straight MIVA crown

With its win against Quincy, Ball State collected its third-straight and 24th-overall MIVA regular season title.

Graduate Student middle blocker Wil McPhillips celebrates scoring a point against Quincy April 4 at Worthen Arena. McPhillips scored four points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN
Graduate Student middle blocker Wil McPhillips celebrates scoring a point against Quincy April 4 at Worthen Arena. McPhillips scored four points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Twelve minutes prior to every home match, the Ball State men’s volleyball squad jogs onto the hardwood in Worthen Arena for one final tune-up before first serve. As the Cardinals make their way onto the playing surface, public address announcer and legendary volleyball coach Steve Shondell belts through his headset, “Here they come, the 23-time MIVA champions.”

Shondell — the son of the late Dr. Don Shondell, who led the Cardinals to 20 of their conference championships — will soon have to amend his pregame announcement. By sweeping Quincy (25-23, 25-17, 25-15) Thursday night, Ball State secured its third-straight and 24th-overall Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) regular season title.

“It's a super awesome experience,” senior opposite hitter Dyer Ball said. “Since Donan and the other coaches came in three years ago, it's been a totally different mindset, and I think that we've all adapted to that.”

As it currently stands, the Cardinals just own a share of the MIVA championship, as Loyola Chicago remains within a match of the red and white in the league standings. However, either a Ramblers loss or a Ball State win in each team’s regular-season finale Saturday will bring the outright title to Muncie.

Ball State’s triumph continued head coach Donan Cruz’s historic start to his tenure at the university. The third-year leader of the Cardinals has now secured MIVA regular season in each of his campaigns at the helm in Muncie, a feat he attributes to a number of contributors — from athletic directors, to members of his coaching staff, to his players.

“It really is a combination of so many people that have invested time and energy and resources into supporting our guys, and putting us in position to put us in front of the best competition in the country,” Cruz said.

Cruz is just the third coach to toe the sidelines for the Cardinals in the program’s 60-year history, following Dr. Don Shondell and Joel Walton, who combined for more than 1,100 wins across their decades leading the team. The 2022 MIVA Coach of the Year said he was emotional following Thursday’s match, as he considered the honor he has been given as Ball State’s head men’s volleyball coach. 

“I’m just a small piece of this really rich history, and that started back with coach Shondell,” Cruz said. “To be able to be the steward of the program now makes me feel lucky every day.”

MVB v Quincy 1.JPG
Junior opposite hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva spikes the ball against Quincy April 4 at Worthen Arena. Ndavazocheva scored 12 points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

Junior outside hitter Tinaishe Ndavazocheva echoed his coach’s appreciation for the university’s men’s volleyball program. The product of Zimbabwe has now won conference titles in each of his two seasons in Muncie.

“You are representing something that is more than you,” Ndavazocheva said. “Whenever you step on the court it's like ‘it’s me playing, but right you also have got to be reliable.’”

As he approaches the conclusion of his collegiate volleyball career, Ball said this season’s title was particularly memorable.

“You know, the past four years, I've got to wake up almost every day and come in here and play the sport I love with my best friends,” Ball said. “That's something that I'll have forever.”

Though the Cardinals find themselves as MIVA champions on the final weekend of the regular season, Ball State’s performance in the opening weeks of the campaign did not necessarily signal that a repeat as conference titleholders was imminent. The red and white scheduled an ambitious non-conference slate, and dropped five of their first six matches against ranked opponents.

Now three months removed from their troublesome opening month of January, Ndavazocheva and Ball assert that there was value in the red and white’s difficult start to the season.

“The whole game is just learning from all the losses, and people are doing good at engaging and taking those losses positively,” Ndavazocheva said.

Ball expressed that the opening weeks of the season were difficult for the Cardinals, but highlighted the mental benefits from their trying start: “It just showed us that we weren’t that big dog that we thought we were at that time.”

The Cardinals took the floor in the championship-clinching contest without two anchors of their starting lineup: sophomore outside hitter Patrick Rogers and junior middle blocker Vanis Buckholz. Cruz said that the verdict is still out as to when they return, but they both have been active in practice.

“We'll just have to see, now that we've clinched our position,” Cruz said. “We've got to be smart about how we get them back to the court.”

MVB v Quincy 4.JPG
Senior opposite hitter Dyer Ball spikes the ball against Quincy April 4 at Worthen Arena. Ball scored five points in the game. Mya Cataline, DN

A collective effort — on both the offensive and defensive ends — made up for the lost production in the starting rotation. Nine players contributed to Ball State’s 37-kill performance on offense, while eight Cardinals helped register the red and white’s six blocks.

With the conference title in hand, Ball State (19-9, 12-3 MIVA) will conclude its regular season with a Senior-Day matchup against McKendree (14-10, 8-7 MIVA) Saturday at 5 p.m. The Bearcats handed the Cardinals their first loss in MIVA play nearly two months ago, and did so in dominating fashion. Cruz said the early-season setback

“We didn't have a good showing the last time we were down in Lebanon, so I think our guys have definitely circled this one on the calendar because we didn’t feel like we were Ball State that day,” Cruz said. 

Contact Adam Altobella with comments on X @AltobellaAdam or via email at


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