The IPFW men’s volleyball team opens its final season with coach Arnie Ball today at a tournament at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Ball is entering his 34th and final season with the Mastodons, and he has led IPFW to six Final Four appearances and one national championship appearance in 2007, losing 3-1 to UC Irvine at Ohio State.
"The national championship game was surreal," Ball said. "It makes it hard to recollect. It was an emotional time for everyone. It was in the Midwest, too, so the crowd was great."
Ball hopes that this year will be the year of the national championship.
"The goal has been, for 33 years, to win a national championship and we’ve not done that," Ball said. "We’ve been in the finals, but we have not won. The goal hasn’t changed.
"We still want to have an opportunity to win a national championship even though our league is going to be very competitive."
Ball is one of the longest-tenured and most respected coaches in collegiate volleyball. He became the head coach of the IPFW men’s and women’s programs in 1981 and was the athletic director until 1988 when he put his focus solely on the men’s team.
"A softball player made a comment to the newspaper that the athletic director was never at games," Ball said. "The teams were getting more competitive locally and nationally. I was busy. It made it difficult to recruit. So I went home and talked it over with my wife and decided to just coach the men’s volleyball team.
"I’m not good politically. While coaching, I was in charge and got to make decisions and things got done."
Ball, a graduate of now-closed Monroeville High School, coached at New Haven and Harding before coming to IPFW.
"I enjoyed every minute of high school coaching," he said. "I loved my years with my girls team, especially when the girls won the SAC tournament and boys won state."
Ball and the IPFW men’s volleyball team made their first NCAA tournament appearance in 1991, which remains as one of Ball’s favorite memories with the Mastodons.
"We beat our rivals, Ball State, to go to the tournament," Ball said. "It was an outstanding moment for the program."
IPFW opens the season No. 15 in the AVCA Preseason Poll. While in California, they will face No. 13 Cal State Northridge at 1 p.m. today; No. 5 UCLA at 10 p.m. today; and No. 4 UC Santa Barbara at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
"It’s a weekend where you get to play two teams that are in the top 10 in the country," Ball said. "You want to put your best foot forward in that regard. "It’s not hard to motivate the players because the players are motivated because they want to go where it’s warm, and, No. 2, to play the likes of UCLA and Santa Barbara."