MUNCIE, Ind. – The No. 13 Ball State men’s volleyball team returns home to Worthen Arena this Thursday, Feb. 20 to take on No. 1 Loyola-Chicago at 7:30 p.m. The match pits the last two undefeated teams in the MIVA against one another. This will mark the first time in school history that the program has hosted two No. 1 teams at Worthen Arena in the same season.
Scouting Ball State
The Cardinals (7-3, 3-0 MIVA) extended its winning streak to six after picking up conference wins against Quincy and Lindenwood on the road. The match against No. 1 Loyola will mark the second time this season that Ball State has hosted the No. 1 team in the country - the first time in school history that has happened in one season.
The Cardinals are ranked seventh in the country in blocking with a 2.88 average led by MIVA Defensive Player of the Week Matt Leske who has a 1.41 blocks per set average.
Sophomore Marcin Niemczewski leads the offense for Ball State with a MIVA-best 3.67 kills per set average. Seniors Matt Leske and Kevin Owens head up the block for Ball State with 1.41 and 0.95 blocks per set, respectively. Junior libero David Ryan Vander Meer has collected 86 digs on the year for a 2.26 digs per set average.
The Ramblers (11-1, 4-0 MIVA) are coming off wins against Grand Canyon. Joseph Smalzer’s 20 kills in Loyola’s first sweep of Grand Canyon was not only a season-high for the senior, but also for the team.
Smalzer and Thomas Jaeschke lead the offense for the Ramblers with 132 and 122 kills each so far on the season. Smalzer is a threat from behind the service line with 33 aces on the season and a nation’s-best 0.87 aces per set average.
Series with Loyola
Loyola holds a 24-19 advantage in the series against Ball State which dates back to the 1996 season. Last season the Ramblers were 2-1 in matches against the Cardinals including a 3-1 win in the MIVA Semifinals.
And Then There Were Four
Heading into Thursday’s match, there are four teams left in the country that are undefeated in conference play: Ball State, Loyola, Harvard and Penn State.
Leske Earns Defensive Player of the Week - Feb. 18
Senior middle attacker Matt Leske led the blocking unit in wins against conference opponents Quincy and Lindenwood to extend Ball State’s winning streak to six matches. He collected 11 total blocks in the two contests.
Senior setter Graham McIlvaine moved to sixth in program history after his 35 assists performance against Lindenwood on Feb. 15 to give him 2,316 career assists. McIlvaine passed Jeff Robertson (1997-2000) who finished his career with 2,313 assists.