Clarification: Nate Wolf, an academic senior with junior eligibility, will be recognized at Ball State men's volleyball Senior Night alongside the five seniors.
With Senior Night looming for Ball State men's volleyball Saturday, one memory kept popping up among the five seniors — the success of their last season.
"We've felt like we can be unstoppable and we still have to have that mentality heading into the tournament next week," senior middle attacker Alex Pia said. "It's been a hell of a year to say the least."
The No. 13 Cardinals (17-9, 8-7 MIVA) have already beaten several ranked opponents, but senior outside attacker Edgardo Cartagena still believes there is more for this team to accomplish when they step on the court against No. 10 Loyola-Chicago.
"Seeding-wise we're not where we want to be, but we still have the opportunity to go on a run," Cartagena said. "We have the chance to make the remainder of this season something that I will remember forever."
- #3 Connor Gross: setter
- Gross ranks sixth all-time in career assists at Ball State.
- #5 Edgardo Cartagena: outside attacker
- Cartagena transferred to Ball State his sophomore year after Pacific University's volleyball program was disbanded.
- #6 Brendan Surane: outside attacker
- Surane ranks seventh all-time at Ball State in kills, sixth all-time in service aces and ninth all-time in total points.
- #7 Mike "Skip" Scannell: outside attacker
- Scannell ranks 20th all-time at Ball State in kills per set.
- #17 Alex Pia: middle attacker
- Pia ranks 10th all-time at Ball State in blocks per set and 16th all-time in total blocks.
The Cardinals have had their highs and lows during these past four years — from finishing under .500 with a 13-16 record in 2015 to being ranked as high as No. 8 in 2016. Senior outside attacker Brendan Surane said the ups and downs helped the team form a stronger bond.
"We've definitely gone through a lot together, both good and bad," Surane said. "I really think it's just made us closer to one another."
The friendships these players built with one another started immediately — for Surane, it began right at the beginning of Welcome Week.
"As soon as I got introduced to all of the guys and got a feel for the culture, I knew it was a place I wanted to be at," Surane said. "I'm really happy with the decision that I made."
While Surane has been one of the more reserved Cardinals, several of the team's freshmen including libero Nick Lavanchy and outside attacker Matt Szews have seen the energy that exudes from Pia and fellow senior outside attacker Mike "Skip" Scannell.
"I just like to have fun. That's just how I play," Pia said. "I feel like it's rubbing off when I play with some of the younger guys."
Scannell said it's important for the younger players to have a positive energy, whether they're on the court or cheering their teammates on from the sidelines.
"Whether you're ready or not, you have to be ready to have some sort of impact," Scannell said. "It's important to carry that down to the other guys that whatever position you're in, you have to make a good deal out of it."
The approaching end of the volleyball season also means the seniors are one step closer to graduation.
Senior setter Connor Gross, just like the four other seniors, is a Miller College of Business student. Gross said his experience as the team's captain will help him in the business world.
"It's helped me to develop leadership skills and also helped me to have confidence," Gross said. "I think that whenever you can gain leadership skills, it's beneficial."
Scannell said his experience as a Division-I athlete has helped him prepare for what his job life will be like.
"Whether it's coming in the gym and you're sore and you're tired, you still have to work hard," Scannell said. "Same thing in the job field — you still have to go in and hit the clock and work hard so I think what I've learned will hopefully translate into the work field."
But before they start their professional lives, they still have Saturday's 7:30 p.m. matchup with Loyola at Worthen Arena.