Ball State men's volleyball will be preparing for two matches against the Fort Wayne Mastodons (4-9, 1-1 MIVA) this week.
The Cardinals (9-2, 1-1 MIVA), who are ranked No. 11 in the AVCA NCAA Division I-II Coaches Poll, will play their first match against the Mastodons at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 in Worthen Arena and then travel up I-69 to Fort Wayne to play at 7 p.m. Feb. 10.
Fort Wayne will be looking for its second win over a ranked opponent this season — the Mastadons defeated then-ranked No. 12 George Mason on Jan. 27 in straight sets. Head coach Joel Walton said he has been impressed by the fight Fort Wayne has shown in their matches.
"They're not necessarily the most physical team that we will play against, but they won't back down to anybody," Walton said. "They're like that little dog that you look at and say 'Oh, that dog is a joke' but when you start to badger it a bit it becomes fierce and ferocious."
Walton said playing in Fort Wayne could also be difficult for the Cardinals, especially on a night where the Mastodons will be honoring former player Raul Papaleo and their 2007 team which lost in the NCAA Championship to UC Irvine.
- Feb. 7: Home vs. Fort Wayne at 7:30 p.m.
- Feb. 10: Away vs. Fort Wayne at 7 p.m.
- Last match: W, 3-1 (21-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-19) on Mar. 16, 2016
"There's typically a group of alumni that will heckle our guys and do everything they can to distract them and with the celebration, that will be their alumni times two at least," Walton said. "Our guys need to realize that they're walking into a potential buzzsaw and it could make our guys uncomfortable so we'll have to get used to that."
The Mastodons are led by freshman outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas, who has 147 kills and averages 3.34 per set and redshirt sophomore outside hitter Colton Stone who is averaging 0.32 aces per set.
"Stone has a really live arm," Walton said. "He has really long arms and gets on the ball well so I'm not surprised that his serve is giving some teams difficulty."
This will be the first time this season that Ball State will play the same opponent twice in the same week.
"We have to make sure that our team approaches each night separately and distinctly," Walton said. "We need to be prepared give great emotion and effort both times in order to secure both victories."
The Cardinals opened up conference play last week with a loss to No. 1 Ohio State but capped off the weekend with a win against McKendree. Walton said he was impressed with the amount of energy he saw his team show in the two matches.
"In our sport, that energy and emotion can feed your team," Walton said. "We have to understand that that's how good teams play volleyball and we must be consistent in that effort night-to-night."