FORT WAYNE – Nine months. Two hundred eighty-seven days. Six thousand, eight hundred eighty-eight hours, give or take. No one on the IPFW men’s volleyball team has it figured that precisely. But they do have it figured.
They know it’s been a good long time since the night of April 20, 2013, when Ball State, their oldest rival, brushed aside the Mastodons in three games in the MIVA tournament, ending IPFW’s season. Now, finally, IPFW will get the Cardinals again, tonight in the Gates Center, in the conference opener for both schools.
With it being at home, and with it being our natural rival, it’s a pretty important match for both teams, IPFW coach Arnie Ball says.
Junior outside hitter Kevin Villela cuts it a little closer to the bone than that.
It’s really been heightened with what happened last year in the conference tournament, he said. We got swept by them. We’ve been like just (chomping at the bit) to get back at them and beat them.
And that is not just because it’s the conference opener. Or that it’s Ball State and IPFW, between whom there is indeed much history, not all of it agreeable.
It goes back a long time and, just looking at it, Ball State has beat us up in the past, says senior libero JW Kieckhefer, noting the Cardinals’ 65-26 all-time edge. It’s not a very good record for us historically.
But history doesn’t really matter to us. It does from a program standpoint, but to this match it really doesn’t. It’s about going out and putting it to a pretty good Ball State team. They have a good team, and we’ve got to play our best volleyball.
And that, really, is the essence of it. April 20 might play into it, and so will the fact that so many players on both teams know each other, lending a backyard-family-squabble flavor to the proceedings.
It’s one of those matches you want to win so bad because they’re your friends, Kieckhefer says.
Mostly, though, it’s about continuing to build on the foundation of a 3-1 start.
Most importantly, we have to be concerned with our play and that we continue to play like we’ve played the first several weeks of the season, Ball says.
If they do, the Mastodons will be a handful. Balance in their attack has been the key for them so far; six Mastodons have 30 or more kills, led by Eddie Rivera’s 39.
If we spread the ball around like we have in the past, you literally cannot stop it, Kieckhefer says. We’re too good for that if we can spread the ball out.
That’s what makes passing that much more important. If we can stay in system and use all of our weapons it makes us physically impossible to stop.