MUNCIE, Ind. - - Four members of the 15th-ranked Ball State men's volleyball team were honored Thursday as the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association announced its all-conference and specialty award selections as voted on by the league's seven head coaches.
Representing the Cardinals on the All-MIVA First Team were senior middle attacker Anders Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis./St. Croix Falls H.S.) and redshirt freshman libero Tommy Rouse (Carmel, Ind./Cathedral H.S.). Senior middle attacker J.D. Gasparovic (St. Louis, Mo./Oakville H.S.) and sophomore outside attacker Larry Wrather (Lake Bluff, Ill./Lake Forrest H.S.) earned recognition on the All-MIVA Second Team.
"These four players have done a nice job for our team this season," said Ball State head coach Joel Walton. "Having them recognized on the all-conference team reflects how well our team has been playing, especially in our final push towards the MIVA Tournament."
Nelson, who was an All-MIVA Second Team honoree in 2010, enters Saturday's MIVA Tournament Quarterfinal match ranked first in the league and third nationally with a 1.35 blocks-per-game average. He has tallied an NCAA-best 35 solo blocks this season to go along with 109 block assists for a total of 144 blocks. The MIVA Offensive Player of the Week Feb. 14, Nelson was named one of three finalist for the inaugural Off the Block Blocker of the Year award which is given to the nation's best front-row defensive men's volleyball player during the regular season.
"Anders has had an All-America type season," said Walton. "I will be disappointed if this award does not springboard him into consideration for All-America honors. Anders has expanded his role on our team this season and developed into a solid all-around player. Not only does he dominate matches as a blocker and attacker, but he has also made defensive plays in the back court and provided us with numerous service runs. His all-around game has been extremely strong this season."
Rouse, a first-time All-MIVA selection, enters the weekend ranked second in the league with a 2.33 digs-per-game average. He has tallied double-digit digs in 12 matches this season, including a career-high 18 digs at George Mason (Jan. 28). He was also named the MIVA Defensive Player of the Week after his performances at GMU and Sacred Heart.
"Tommy has done a nice job coming in and playing the libero for our program," said Walton. "He took over for an all-conference player in Billy Ebel and did not miss a beat. Tommy has a great work ethic and his play improved throughout the season."
Gasparovic, who picked up All-MIVA First Team accolades the past two years to go along with the 2008 MIVA Freshman of the Year award, enters the MIVA Tournament ranked third in the league and fifth nationally with a 1.29 blocks-per-game average. With his 10 block assists last Friday versus No. 9 Penn State, Gasparovic became the program's all-time leader in the category. BSU's active career kills leader at 773, Gasparovic's 550 career total blocks, 481 career block assists and 69 career solo blocks are BSU rally scoring era records.
"J.D.'s play for the last month and a half has been an important part of our team gaining momentum," said Walton. "His spirited play has guided the team to wins over No. 12 Lewis and No. 9 Penn State in the last third our regular season."
Wrather, a first-time All-MIVA selection, enters the league tournament as the Cardinals' leading attacker with a 2.68 kills-per-game average. He has blasted double-digit kills in a team-best 12 matches this season, including eight of BSU's last nine. He collected a season-high 17 kills versus then-No. 8 UCLA (Jan. 14), while earning a career-high 10 digs at Sacred Heart (Jan. 29) and versus Grand Canyon (April 2).
"Larry is by far our emotional leader," said Walton. "He is the emotional glue that holds our team together. His joy of volleyball is infectious for our team, and his energy has taken us on large point runs. He gives our team the energy to take over matches."The No. 15 Ball State men's volleyball team returns to action Saturday, when it hosts Quincy for a 7:30 p.m. first serve at Worthen Arena in the quarterfinal round of the 2011 MIVA Tournament. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for BSU students and fans 18-and-under.