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Big Ten

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On campus

IPFW looks for confidence

– The march to April begins in earnest for the IPFW men’s volleyball team tonight. On the first two days of February, the Mastodons will play their first two matches of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association schedule – the 14-night grind that culminates with the MIVA tournament April 20-27.

Tonight comes Lindenwood to the Gates Center, and Saturday comes Quincy. And if Arnie Ball could have arranged the schedule himself, his IPFW squad couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to break out of the conference gate. In the preseason conference poll, IPFW was chosen to finish sixth, Lindenwood was picked seventh and Quincy eighth.

“I know it’s an old cliché, but it’s early in the season in the conference, and it’s important, especially at home, that we play well and develop the confidence going into those four matches that we’ve got to go on the road,” Ball said.

In a few weeks’ time, IPFW will elevate from the bottom of the league to the top. Ball has the schedule memorized.

“God knows what’s going to happen this week and the next three weeks, because we go on the road to Ball State, Ohio State, Loyola and Lewis – and all those are back-to-back,” Ball said. “I want us to be competitive in those matches (this weekend), because if we are, then I think the rest of it comes together as we move along.”

Lewis, Loyola and Ohio State were selected to finish 1-2-3, with Ball State fifth.

Five matches and three wins into the 2013 season, Ball says he has a concept of what lies ahead with his Mastodons, who are led by junior outside hitter Eddie Rivera’s 54 kills.

It’s a team with two seniors in Anthony Randolph and Rob Samp, both of whom have seen the bench this year. Setter Omar Rivera is a sophomore, as is Bryan Saunders, who shares the No. 3 kill spot. Andy Sellan, No. 2 with 35 kills, is a freshman.

Five matches in, Ball is getting a perspective on his team.

“We all look at that – what the end result is going to be and how do we get there,” Ball said. “Sometimes you identify it earlier than others because the talent just meshes together. I have at least a vision of what it looks like partially, but not totally, because of a couple pieces that haven’t come together yet. Certainly I have an idea of what I want it to look like come March and April.

“I certainly think we’ll find out this weekend whether we’re ready or not. Both of these teams are pretty good volleyball teams. They’re not great, but they’re OK.”

Athlete of note

Indiana Tech junior Dontaey Paige (Heritage) was named the WHAC indoor track and field athlete of the week after a record-breaking performance at the SPIRE Midwest Open in Geneva, Ohio. Paige won the 200-meter dash in a school-record time of 21.62. He also won the 60-meter dash in 6.82.

Steve Warden covers area colleges for The Journal Gazette. He may be reached by email at stwarden@jg.net, by phone at 461-8477, or by fax at 461-8648.

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