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Local colleges

vs. Ohio State
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Gates Center

Coaches keep rivalry friendly

– One of them has been around since the last days of the Carter administration. The other has been a fixture since the zenith of the Reagan years.

What that means is that IPFW volleyball coach Arnie Ball (34 years) and Ohio State coach Pete Hanson (28 years) bring a lot of history to the table when their programs stand across the net from each other, as they will again tonight. And nothing seasons a relationship better than history.

“Coach Hanson and I go back a long way together, and I think that’s something that’s helped develop that rivalry a little bit in a very friendly way,” Ball said this week. “We’ve competed with them to go to the national tournament any number of times. In 2007, we beat them at their place to do it.”

Tonight it will happen at the Mastodons’ place, and the meeting will be one of contrasts. On one side stands the 13th-ranked Buckeyes (7-7), whose roster is dotted with 10 freshmen or redshirt freshmen. On the other is IPFW (10-3), a veteran group that’s found its rhythm in the last month, having lost only to No. 1 Loyola since January.

The schools split last year, each winning on its home floor.

“We’re very consistent with the offensive side of the game, and our serving has gotten better,” says Ball, whose team beat Mount Olive and Barton at home last week while losing only one set. “So I think that’s helped us a whole bunch. We just have to get better in our transition game in order to score real points.

“We have to be a better blocking team so we can dig balls, and when you dig balls, you turn them into points. We’ve been working real hard at blocking and back-court defense because I think those were two things that were deficient.”

It seems to be working. Against Mount Olive and Barton, the Mastodons recorded 62 digs and 28 block attempts with just four blocking errors. They had none against Barton.

Eddie Rivera continues to lead a balanced attack with 154 kills. Andrew Sellan has 135, Bryan Saunders 111 and Ramon Brugos 109.

Ohio State is led by junior opposite Andrew Lutz with 164 kills. He’s the only real veteran presence for the young Buckeyes, who are coming off a loss at home to No. 14 Ball State.

“The Lutz kid is their go-to guy at opposite, and all freshmen and another couple of juniors you can throw in there, too,” says Ball, whose team also plays host to King on Friday night. “They don’t have a lot of playing experience and so obviously they’re gaining this year.”