No. 15 Ball State University continues to get back up every time it is knocked down.
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The No. 11 Ohio State University men's volleyball team has not lost a conference home match this season. No. 15 Ball State University is the only challenger remaining as the two rivals square off at 7 p.m. today in Columbus, Ohio.
Senior Libero Billy Ebel only has a few matches left in his Ball State University uniform, and there was one thing he had to do before graduating:
There was no time for Steve Shondell to settle into his new position as the women's volleyball coach for Ball State University on Wednesday.
The Ball State University women's volleyball team's coaching search is over.Steve Shondell was introduced Tuesday as the sixth head coach in school history. He comes to Ball State following a 34-year tenure as the girls volleyball coach at Burris Laboratory School."There's no other school I'd rather coach at than Ball State," Shondell said. "Ball State's always been my real love. It's been part of my life ever since I was 5 years old."Shondell's father, Don, founded the men's volleyball program at Ball State. Steve played for his father in the 1970s, helping the Cardinals to three Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association titles. He also was a volunteer assistant for Don Shondell in the 1990s and is a member of the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame.Shondell was offered and accepted the position following an interview that took place last week."Initially, I didn't think that I would be able to [come to Ball State], because I just could not see myself ever leaving Burris," Shondell said, "but the more I thought about it, it just seemed like the timing was right. I knew if I was ever going to go into collegiate coaching, this had to be it."The Cardinals failed to meet expectations under Dave Boos, who coached them for the last three years compiling a 32-62 record. Boos recently took a job as assistant coach at the University of Florida, opening the door for Shondell.Shondell admitted that Ball State has seen some down times recently, but he is ready to move forward with the team."The team has struggled, from a win-loss standpoint, the last four years. The opportunity to come in and start really turning the program around is a great opportunity for me."He said he has met with the team twice: once during last week's interview and again today."I think they'd like to be the team that turns this program around," he said. "I believe they will."Senior Alyssa Rio said she was happy that Shondell was hired."I think his love of the game will help inspire us to play with our love of the game," she said. "I think it's going to be a nice, new start for all of us."Rio said she wished she had more than just her senior year to play under Shondell's tutelage."I think a lot of us feel we wish we had more years to see where Steve's going to take the program," she said.Shondell said ball control is going to be key in rebuilding the program. In 2009, Ball State had a total of 1,080 errors among all facets of the game."We have to be able to run a quicker offense than we've been running," he said.Senior Karin Caudill also noted the faster pace at which Ball State will play. She added that the style of play will also be more fundamentals-based.Rio said one way the team will speed up play is through the use of lower passes to the setter, something the back row players will have to get used to quickly.Health will also be important. Shondell said the team has had a pattern of injuries hampering the team. One of Shondell's biggest concerns for 2010 is being able to field a team that can stay injury-free."This year, we have a lot of juniors and seniors that really need to be on the floor," he said.One junior who has returned to the team is Brittany McGinnis. During the off-season, McGinnis announced she would leave the program, but Shondell said she has since returned to the volleyball team."That's definitely a positive, that you've got your two-year experienced setter back on the team," Shondell said.Christie Waters, who also left the team in the off-season, is a Burris graduate. Shondell said time will tell if she wants to come back to the team."She'll have to make that decision," he said. "I'll always welcome her back. She's a great kid."He said he would like to see a quick turnaround but acknowledged that it will take time, especially as he institutes a new system at Ball State.While Shondell was at Burris, the Owls won 21 state titles, including a current streak of 13 straight and a 40-0 record in 2009. He is a 2007 American Volleyball Association Hall of Fame inductee and has been the National High School Coach of the Year twice in the last three years.Shondell hasn't spoken with his Burris players yet, but he did send a personal note to each of them Tuesday once he knew he would be coming to Ball State."It's hard for me to talk to them without turning into a waterfall," he said.Shondell will have to make some adjustments to the college game. The biggest difference between high school and college volleyball, Shondell said, is the amount of videotaping and film study that goes into each opponent, as well as recruiting."So much of your success is going to depend on the players you recruit," he said.From a recruiting standpoint, Shondell will have a logical connection to Burris for future recruits. Shondell said he plans to start his recruiting efforts from within Muncie, then branch outward.Athletics director Tom Collins is happy to have the two-time All-MIVA player return to the Cardinals."We are very excited to bring Steve Shondell back into the Ball State family," Collins said in a press release. "He is one of the game's top strategists and one of the most well-known and respected coaches in the sport."Work begins today with the first Ball State practice under the new management. Even though Ball State has only four-and-a-half months until its first game, Shondell is setting the bar high for his new team."I'm hoping that Ball State never has another losing season," he said.
The fans at Worthen Arena rose to their feet to cheer on No. 15 Ball State University at game point and middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic rose with them for a block, clinching game two.
Friday night at Worthen Arena was the first-ever meeting between No. 15 Ball State and King College, and it's a match that King College would most likely care to forget. The Cardinals swept the Tornado 3-0 (30-15, 30-24, 30-19).Ball State cleared their bench as 12 Cardinals saw playing time, the highest number this season. Typical starters were cheering on freshmen players in game three, where the match was well in control – specifically, middle attacker Matt Leske, outside attacker Greg Herceg and setter Dan Wickmann. The bench cheered once Wickmann's nickname "the Candle" was introduced over the loudspeaker. "We were able to work a lot of guys into the match and maintain a high level of play," coach Joel Walton said. Leske, a freshman, had his first start and finished second on the team in kills with seven. "I haven't had a chance to play a whole match," Leske said. "So it was nice to get a lot of playing time and work out some stuff."Outside Attacker Lee Meyer led the match in kills with eight despite only playing two games. The 6-8 junior had a size advantage as the tallest player on the Tornado is 6-5. King College is a young team from the upstart Conference Carolinas as there is only one senior on their roster.
King College is not a name that with star power, but when it takes on No. 15 Ball State University at 7:30 p.m in Worthen Arena. it will be proof that volleyball is a growing sport.The Tornado is based in Bristol, Tenn., and is one of the few southern colleges to field a men's volleyball team. They belong to Conference Carolinas which has five Division II teams. The conference likely won't send a team to the NCAA Tournament, but coach Joel Walton said he hopes that changes soon."I believe that with five members for sure, and a sixth in a period of years, the NCAA would give them an automatic bid as a conference for the NCAA tournament," he said.There are three automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament, including the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association's tournament champion, and one at-large school."We are hoping that Conference Carolinas comes and forces the NCAA to change the tournament and make it bigger," Walton said. "Put more teams in."This would benefit Ball State, increasing their chances of obtaining an at-large bid in the future.With the growth of the sport in mind, Walton will continue to put King College and its fellow conference members on Ball State's schedule. Friday will be the first meeting between the teams. "We are going to continue to play more teams out of Conference Carolinas," Walton said. "Try to get them up and running. So when they do get that automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament, they will be able to send a representative that will be able to compete with the rest of the country."King College is 12-5 and is tied for third in its conference with a 4-4 record.Ball State is 15-9 (6-4 MIVA) and wraps up its nonconference schedule this weekend with a Saturday match against St. Francis University. Ball State defeated Saint Francis 3-1 on Feb. 20.The Cardinals are currently the No. 3 seed for the MIVA tournament but could move up to the two seed or down to the four seed by the end of the season. The MIVA Tournament is just two weeks away, but players know the non-conference action this weekend still matters."We go into every game with the same mindset," outside attacker Lee Meyer said. "You obviously want to play your best whether it's conference or non-conference. Our teams in our conference will be looking at these matches to see how we play."
Revenge is sweet, but for the No. 15 Ball State University men's volleyball team it wasn't pretty. Ball State traveled to Lewis University Tuesday night and avenged an earlier loss to the Flyers by claiming a 3-2 (30-24, 31-29, 28-30, 23-30, 15-13) win over Lewis.
The good news for the No. 15 Ball State University men's volleyball team is that it maintained its ranking in this week's coaches' poll and libero Billy Ebel won the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Defensive Player of the Week award for the fourth time this season.The bad news is that Ball State must play a rare Tuesday match at Lewis University, the team Ball State replaced in the poll last week."It's not ideal," coach Joel Walton said. "We were both forced into playing on a Tuesday."An open date for the conference match could not be found on a weekend for both teams, leaving the mid-week match as the only option. Ball State had to make a schedule change when Penn State University couldn't come to Muncie on the originally scheduled date.The Cardinals played on Tuesday during Spring Break, but this will be their first such game during a school week. The Flyers will be trying to sweep the season series as they defeated the Cardinals 3-2 on Feb. 26 in Muncie.Walton knows that Ball State will have to beat Lewis if the team is to stay in the coaches' poll."Lewis is a good team that beat us," he said. "It will take a good performance in the three matches this week to stay in the poll."Walton said that the mid-week match did not decrease the teams preparation."It will be similar to our normal preparation other than it's on a Tuesday." he said.Lewis is third in the MIVA standings with Ball State fourth. Both teams have secured a first round home match in the MIVA tournament quarterfinals. Ohio State University has virtually locked up the second seed with an 8-1 MIVA record. Loyola University is currently the one seed with its perfect 10-0 MIVA record. Walton doesn't want Loyola to win the No. 1 seed, as it will give Loyola home-court advantage in its small gym with a low ceiling."When you look at the scenarios for our league, I hope our championship isn't played in that small gym," Walton said.
Time is running out for No. 15 Ball State University.The Cardinals have three matches remaining with Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association schools to improve its seeding before the MIVA tournament, which is less than three weeks away."I'm pleased with the guys taking care of business at IPFW," coach Joel Walton said.The Cardinals swept the season series with the Mastodons, capturing a 3-0 victory Saturday night. The Cardinals clinched a top-four finish in the MIVA standings and have secured a home match in the tournament starting April 24. Ball State no longer has to worry about home-court advantage for the first round."We played at a mediocre level [Saturday]," Walton said. "We were fortunate that IPFW made a lot of mistakes that allowed us to play an average match and still win."Ball State carries its 14-9 (5-4 MIVA) into Lewis University on Tuesday night. Lewis has a 5-3 MIVA record and is in third place. No. 13 Ohio State University is in second at 8-1, and No. 12 Loyola University sits atop the standings with a perfect 10-0 MIVA record.The victory over IPFW helped Ball State keep pace with Lewis."It's a big conference match," J.D. Gasparovic said. "We were definitely pumped. we wanted this conference win."Middle attackers Gasparovic and Anders Nelson led the team in kills on Saturday with eight each. IPFW was unable to force Ball State to use their outside attackers like they did in the earlier encounter this season in Muncie."Our passers did a nice job handling IPFW's serves," Gasparovic said. "So we just did our job."The Mastodons had no aces to make up for the 23 service errors they committed. "We never let them get comfortable," Walton said. "They served horrible. They just gave us a lot of easy points."Outside attacker Eric Schulte led Ball State's defensive effort with a team high seven blocks. Nelson was second with six blocks on the night.The previous match with IPFW went five games. The players look at Saturday's sweep as a sign of progress as the season has gone on."We didn't come out with as much energy as we should have early in the year," Gasparovic said. "We've improved in that area that we don't fall down into early deficits."
The Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association standings were on shaky ground for No. 15 Ball State University heading into its conference match at IPFW Saturday night, but now those standings are looking brighter.
Things couldn't be much worse for the Ball State University men's volleyball team than they were Feb. 19.
After watching the final Cal State University Northridge kill attempt get blocked, Anders Nelson immediately dropped to his knees on the Worthen Arena court and began to scream.The feeling of knocking off a top-five team was something the Ball State University middle attacker had never experienced in his career. It was even more meaningful to Nelson, though, because he out-played an All-American in the process of securing one of the biggest upsets in Ball State's 46-year program history.Nelson had a match-high eight blocks as unranked Ball State swept No. 3 Cal State Northridge 30-24, 30-28, 30-22 on Saturday, one day after losing to the Matadors in the opening match of the Don Shondell Challenge."This is awesome," Nelson said. "I said [Friday] night after they beat us, and I believed it then, that we can play with them. We did that."The victory against Cal State Northridge was the first time in more than 10 years that Ball State (13-8, 4-4 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) has defeated a top-five ranked team. It is Ball State's fourth win against a ranked team from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation since the start of the rally scoring era.Nelson said this was the biggest upset he had ever been a part of in any sport.In addition to the season high in blocks, Nelson had a match-high .529 attack percentage and was second on the team with 11 kills. "He was out of his mind," coach Joel Walton said.Cal State Northridge's All-American middle attacker Jacek Ratajczak was held to six kills and a .118 attack percentage — his second lowest attack percentage in a match this season. The six kills was tied for the second fewest number of kills for Ratajczak this season.Matador middle attacker Kevin McKniff had seven kills after finishing the victory on Friday with a match-high 13 kills.Along with Nelson, middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic had six blocks in the victory, including three blocks in the final game."It feels good that we outplayed them," Nelson said. "For us we had something to prove."This is Nelson's second season at the Division I level after transferring from the University of Minnesota, where he played club volleyball, before the 2009 season. Having never played competitive volleyball until arriving at Minnesota, Walton said Nelson still remains somewhat unknown throughout the men's volleyball community.After this weekend's performance, Walton said more people should take notice of Nelson."I hope so," Walton said. "I hope the entire state of Wisconsin is celebrating, chanting his name and [being] thrilled with Anders."Nelson and Gasparovic were successful at preventing Ratajczak and McKniff from being more productive, Walton said, because of a blocking scheme that took away kill attempts the Matadors' middle attackers were comfortable hitting. Walton said the Matadors inability to pass as well as the Cardinals kept the team out of an offensive rhythm the entire match."I challenged our guys in the video session before the match," Walton said. "There were things we didn't do [Friday], and I really challenged our guys to block and attack Cal State better."The coach said Nelson and Gasparovic's performance Saturday showed they are two of the elite middle attackers in the NCAA."Anders and J.D. are two middles capable of rivaling any middles in the nation," Walton said.This victory comes about three weeks before the start of the MIVA Tournament. Ball State will play No. 6 Penn State University on Thursday before returning to conference play this weekend.Walton said if the Cardinals continue to play at the level it played Saturday, it could lead to his team winning its first MIVA title in eight years."These are the types of feelings we want to have in April and in the conference tournament," he said.
March Madness has finally visited Ball State University this year.
A decisive, upset sweep of No. 3 California State University Northridge on Saturday night was all it took for Ball State University to revitalize its season.After outside attacker Larry Wrather scored match point with a solo block, Ball State's bench cleared to celebrate on the court as the fans at Worthen Arena gave a standing ovation. It was the biggest celebration men's volleyball players had experienced this season.Ball State went from being swept by Cal State Northridge on Friday night to returning the favor by sweeping the Matadors 30-24, 30-28, 30-22 in the annual Don Shondell Challenge."It was a team performance [Saturday night]," Ball State coach Joel Walton said. "It all started with our staff. Coach [Kevin] Furnish and coach [Jim] Palilonis did a great job preparing our guys for tonight. I challenged them a little bit in our video session because I feel like there were things we didn't do [Friday] night that we are capable of doing. The guys responded really well."Saturday was Ball State's first victory against a ranked opponent in six attempts this season and the first time the Cardinals have defeated a top-five team since defeating No. 4 IPFW in February 1999."I've watched a lot of upsets, but I've never been a part of one," middle attacker Anders Nelson said. "We really focused the last 24 hours on the things we didn't do well [Friday] night. This is a big win for our team, definitely."Unlike most matches this season, Ball State had a balanced offense on the night as four Cardinals had nine or more kills. Cal State Northridge could not focus in on middle attackers Anders Nelson and J.D. Gasparovic like it could Friday night as outside attackers Wrather, Lee Meyer and Eric Schulte all had positive attack percentages.Nelson finished the night with 11 kills and a match-high eight blocks, and Meyer led the Cardinals in kills with 12."[Setter] Ethan [Pheister] did a nice job balancing out our attack," Walton said. "When you have offense from antenna to antenna, it makes it a lot harder for a team to figure out where to put their defenders both at the net and at the back row."Nelson, who had half of his team's blocks, credits his teammates for the defensive performance."Larry blocked great [Saturday], Lee Meyer blocked great [Saturday], so when you are blocking next to those guys it's easy to rack up a whole lot of blocks," he said.The question now for Ball State is how defeating the No. 3 team in the country will carry over for the remainder of the season. The Cardinals play host to No. 6 Penn State University on Thursday in another matchup with a top-10 team."I still feel that this is a team that is capable of winning a MIVA championship," Walton said. "And the guys just have to believe and keep working hard. And we can't at any point in time think we are there because we still have a lot of areas in our game we need to improve."
After spending a week preparing, coach Joel Walton schemed everything right to prevent Cal State Northridge's All-American middle attacker Jacek Ratajczak from having a big night.
At 1,486 people it was one of the largest and loudest crowds for a Ball State University's men's volleyball game this season.
No. 3 California State University Northridge has not loss to school out of the rankings all year, but Ball State University coach Joel Walton still has high hopes tonight at Worthen Arena."I wouldn't say we are going to have to play a perfect game," Walton said. "But we will have to play well. Our team is capable of playing at the level that Cal State Northridge plays out."Walton cites how competitive Loyola University was at Cal State Northridge as evidence that Ball State University can win. Loyola lost the match but had chances to win some games in Northridge's gym. Loyola and Ball State share some characteristic as a Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association member."The advantage we are going to have that Loyola didn't have is that Cal State Northridge is going to be playing in our gym," Walton said. "We have to use our comfortable environment to relax and play well."The Cardinals are optimistic because they are playing their best volleyball of the season a month before the MIVA tournament."We've competed with ranked teams all season long and it's just a matter of making sure we play as a team." libero Billy Ebel said. "And we've been playing the best volleyball right now that we can, and we just have to play that consistently and then we can win games against ranked opponents."Ebel was named MIVA Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season after Ball State defeated Rutgers-Newark and George Mason University last weekend. In the Rutgers-Newark match, Ball State was behind in games two and three and rallied to sweep the match 3-0. Walton believes that this demonstrates how the Cardinals have improved from the start of the season."The comeback against Rutgers [Newark] in those last two games is something we haven't been good at earlier in the season," he said. "To work our way back into both of those games was a good step for our team."Five of Ball State's seven losses have come against ranked teams, and none of Ball State's 12 wins have been against a ranked opponent."It will definitely be a challenge," outside attacker Lee Meyer said. "But because of that challenge I think it will definitely be more exciting for the fans."
When it comes to school spirit, Ball State University senior Zach Brubaker takes matters into his own hands.Brubaker is not a member of Ball State's men's volleyball team, but he is part of the Cardinals' biggest advantage coming into Friday's home match with No. 3 California State University Northridge.