How important was it for No. 11 Ball State men's volleyball to clinch a home berth for its Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association quarterfinal match against No. 12 Loyola-Chicago instead of going to the Windy City?
The last time the Cardinals won in Chicago was in 1999 — shortly after Joel Walton took over as the second head coach in the team's history.
"I knew that it would be much more difficult for us to go into their gymnasium and come out with a win," Walton said. "What our guys did last Saturday night was critical from the standpoint of giving us the best possibility to move on to the second round."
The Cardinals earned the 4th seed in the MIVA tournament by defeating the Ramblers 3-0 last weekend with a plus-20 point differential which was exactly what they needed to clinch a home match.
Ball State was able to hold Loyola to its second-lowest attack percentage (.094) in Saturday's win. Several of Loyola's players including junior opposite Ben Plaisted and senior outside hitter Cole Murray both have an average attack percentage of around .250 but they were both held below that. However, Walton expects them to be more comfortable when they return to Worthen Arena this weekend.
Ball State in MIVA Quarterfinals:
2016: vs. McKendree - Loss, 0-3
2015: at Ohio State - Loss, 0-3
2014: vs. Lindenwood - Win, 3-0
2013: vs. Fort Wayne - Win, 3-0
2012: at Grand Canyon - Win, 3-1
"They'll be playing in the same space two weekends in a row, so it won't be as much of a foreign environment to them," Walton said. "Our defense was able to to put a lot of pressure on their offense in that match and we need to duplicate that effort."
The Cardinals out-dug and out-blocked Loyola by five and also held the Ramblers to zero service aces. The first time these two teams met in Chicago, Plaisted dominated behind the baseline finishing with three service aces but the Cardinals were able to hold him to zero the second time around.
"Anyone who is in our passing pattern has to be determined to make good plays and give our team a chance to side out as quickly as possible," Walton said. "Being able to handle their serves and getting a good pass to [senior setter Connor Gross] is important to our consistency."
After the win on Saturday, Walton said it's important to be able to have role players step up in critical matches during the tournament. Senior outside attacker Edgardo Cartagena and freshman outside attacker Blake Reardon were two of the players who have stepped up into starting roles late in the season.
"I'd love to see Blake come back and play an even better match this weekend and eliminate some of the errors he had," Walton said. "His defense and serve receive was also good for most of the match and he helped keep our offense in system."
The Cardinals also will be looking for one of their "usual suspects" to have another big performance. Freshman outside attacker Matt Szews has finished with double-digit kills in both matches against the Ramblers and had attack percentage of over .200 in both of the meetings.
"If we take it point by point and everyone plays their heart out, we'll be able to come out with a good match," Szews said.