The Ball State men’s volleyball team opened its 2018 season schedule Friday night, which is highlighted by 13 home matches with highly ranked competition.
The Cardinals return three seniors, two juniors, and seven sophomores, including two preseason All-MIVA team honorees Matt Walsh and Matt Szews.
The season will kick off with six straight home matches. Two teams from the Conference Carolinas, Lees-McRae and Emmanuel, will be the first to come into Worthen Arena Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. The Cardinals will then host Brigham Young and Stanford in a star-studded weekend.
Ball State and BYU will go head to head on Friday, Jan. 12, followed by the contest with Stanford on Saturday, Jan. 13. Both matches will be televised live by Ball State Sports Link and available on ESPN 3 and the WatchESPN app.
Rounding out the six game home stretch will be visits from Sacred Heart and Harvard. The Cardinals will look to take down Sacred Heart on Friday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20 will be the showdown between Ball State and Harvard, which is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
The Cardinals will then go on a six-game road trip with contests at Pepperdine, George Mason, Penn State, Saint Francis and MIVA foes Ohio State and McKendree.
Ball State will return home to continue conference action. The Cardinals will welcome Lewis on Friday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Loyola will then come into Muncie Saturday, Feb. 17 to take on Ball State at 7:30 p.m.
“The 2018 schedule is a very competitive schedule,” said head coach Joel Walton. “The MIVA is going on a run of four consecutive national championships from teams in our league. Beginning with our in-league competition, we are going to be pushed in every match that we play.”
After a short time back home, the Cardinals will hit the road again. On Friday, Feb. 23 Ball State will look to defeat Quincy on their home court. After that, the Cardinals will continue on to battle Lindenwood. Ball State will then spend their spring break on the west coast with tough battles against high caliber competition. The Cardinals will start March off with tests against UC-San Diego, Concordia-Irvine, UC-Irvine and UC-Santa Barbara.
“This is the strongest group of West Coast teams that we are going to play,” Walton added. “That is the result of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) splitting up into two conferences, the MPSF and the Big West. They are now two conferences of fewer teams instead of one conference with all of the teams, which use to create a situation where they scheduled all their usable dates within their conference play.
“Now that the West Coast teams are looking for more non-conference opponents, it created more openings for us to get them on our schedule. This season we play seven matches against teams from the MPSF and the Big West. That is the most competition we have had from those leagues in long time.”
Ball State will then return to the Midwest for more conference play. The Cardinals will play Fort Wayne at their place on Wednesday, Feb. 14 then will host the Mastodons Saturday, March 17. After those two matches, Ball State will get another chance to battle Lewis and Loyola. The Cardinals will travel to Loyola on Thursday, March 22 then head to Lewis on Saturday, March 24.
The Ball State squad will conclude the season with four home matches. On Friday, March 30, the Cardinals will welcome Lindenwood. The next day Ball State will host Quincy at 7:30 p.m. The final two matches of the season will be Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7 against rivals McKendree and Ohio State. The McKendree match on Friday, April 6 is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. The Cardinals will hope to take down the Buckeyes on senior night Saturday, April 7.
“The highly competitive nature of this year’s schedule will give us a very clear indication of where our team ranks in the country,” Walton added. “We are going to play great teams from all the different conferences and through those competitions our guys will be battle tested and ready for post-season competition at the end of the year.”