Looking at the Ohio State and Ball State men’s volleyball teams’ seasons so far, it would be easy to confuse the two.
After two quick victories against non conference opponents, both the No. 12 Buckeyes (3-3) and the No. 13 Cardinals (3-4) fell to then-No. 5 BYU and then-No. 11 Stanford en-route to prolonged losing streaks, before getting back on the winning track in each of their most recent home matchups.
Both teams will be looking for a victory in the opening match of Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) play this season when they face off in Muncie, Indiana on Saturday.
Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said the team is excited for the MIVA opener after beginning the season with six nonconference matches, in which it won three.
“I think they’re focused, I think they’re ready to go. This is always a big rivalry match,” Hanson said. “We’re looking forward to going over there and playing as well as we can.”
The Cardinals enter the match as a stellar blocking team, averaging 2.39 blocks per set, 13th best in the nation.
Hanson said Ohio State has had three good days of practice working with the setters to put the ball in different parts of the court, hopefully putting the hitters in the best position possible to avoid those blocks and hit their spots.
“At the end of the day, it’s the hitter against the blocker and hopefully we’ve trained our guys to win that battle,” Hanson said.
In those battles, the Buckeyes have been turning primarily to sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes to come through with key kills. They’ve been successful thus far; he leads the nation with 115 kills.
But Ohio State has been looking to lighten the offensive load off Hanes’ shoulders.
Last Saturday against Erskine, sophomore outside hitter Martin Lallemand and redshirt senior Blake Leeson combined for 25 kills in addition to Hanes’ 12 to lead the Buckeyes offensively.
Hanes said spreading the offensive success is crucial to team improvement.
“The more people we have going, it just makes it easier on everybody,” Hanes said. “The more people that are doing well, the harder it is for the other team, blocking and defensively, to line up and know where to be to stop us.”
Ohio State takes on Ball State at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Muncie, Indiana.