MUNCIE, Ind. - The Ball State men’s volleyball team will open up its 51st season hosting two-time defending national champion UC Irvine (2-1) Saturday, Jan. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at John E. Worthen Arena. The Anteaters are coming off a five-set thriller in Chicago that saw Preseason MIVA favorite Loyola come out with the upper hand (24-26, 25-19, 26-24, 17-25, 15-12). Saturday’s match will mark the first time the two programs have met since 2000.
Scouting Ball State: Ball State ended the 2013 season with a 21-6 overall record and a 9-5 mark in MIVA play. The Cardinals ended the season ranked ninth in the AVCA Division I-II Coaches Top 15 Poll and had Matt Leske and Kevin Owens named Volleyball Magazine All-Americans.
The Cardinals lost four key contributors to graduation after the 2013 season including First Team All-MIVA members Jamion Hartley, Greg Herceg and Tommy Rouse. Ball State does return its middle attack as well as setter Graham McIlvaine in addition to six newcomers. Larry Wrather, who sat out the 2013 season due to injury, will also be available for Ball State in 2014.
Preseason Nods: The Cardinals saw several preseason honors bestowed on its senior leaders. Matt Leske and Kevin Owens were named Off the Block/Springbak, Inc., Preseason Second Team All-Americans. Leske was also named to the Preseason All-MIVA Team. Graham McIlvaine earned a spot on the inaugural Lloy Ball Award Watch List.
The Cardinals earned 17 votes in the AVCA Division I-II Coaches Top 15 Poll and were picked to finish tied for fifth in the MIVA as voted on by league coaches.
Scouting UC Irvine: Defending national champion UC Irvine started off the 2014 season ranked No. 1 in the AVCA Division I-II Coaches Top 15 Preseason Poll. In addition, the Anteaters have been picked to finish third in the tightly-contested MPSF.
Senior middle blocker Collin Mehring, junior libero Michael Brinkley and senior outside hitter Connor Hughes were named to the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Preseason All-American Teams. Mehring and Brinkley were named to the First Team while Hughes earned a spot on the Second Team.
The Anteaters ended the 2013 season ranked first in the nation in kills per set with an average of 13.02 per set. The Anteaters ended the campaign fourth in hitting percentage (.312), second in assists per set (12.22), and sixth in blocks per set (2.74).
UC Irvine is 2-1 in contests so far on the year picking up wins over Concordia (Calif.) (25-21, 25-13, 25-15) and No. 10 Lewis (21-25, 25-19, 26-24, 25-23) before falling to preseason MIVA favorite Loyola-Chicago (24-26, 25-19, 26-24, 17-25, 15-12).
Series with UC Irvine: Saturday’s match will mark just the sixth time these two squads have met with the series dating back to 1992. The Anteaters took a 3-1 win (15-12, 5-15, 15-11, 15-9) at home on March 11, 2000.
Record Watching: Senior setter Graham McIlvaine is 155 assists away from being seventh in program history in career assists. Heading into Saturday’s match, McIlvaine has 1,999 assists and trails Dave Carlson (2005-06) who has 2,153 career assists.
Live video access will be available for free at ballstatesports.com and you can listen live with 91.3 FM WCRD. The official Twitter handle for Ball State men’s volleyball, @BallStateMVB, will also provide in-match tweets.