A new annual non-conference tournament is coming to college men’s volleyball that will have teams from the two oldest conferences playing each other.
Off the Block announced Tuesday that Ball State, IPFW, Penn State and St. Francis will be part of the inaugural Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge during the 2015 season.
The Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge is a non-conference event featuring four premier NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams — two from the EIVA and two from the MIVA. In addition, the teams from the opposing conferences will play each other during a single weekend.
This series was formed in an effort to celebrate the two NCAA men’s volleyball conferences, while bringing an increased awareness to the marquee non-conference matches.
As the two oldest active college men’s volleyball conferences, both the EIVA and MIVA have been significant in growing the sport of volleyball throughout the nation while producing numerous All-Americans, NCAA championships and future Olympians.
The Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge will begin on Jan. 16 with Ball State playing host to Penn State and IPFW playing host to St. Francis. The event will conclude the following day with Ball State playing host to St. Francis and IPFW playing host to Penn State.
Three of the four teams participating in the Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge ended last season ranked in the final national coaches poll.
Ball State, one of the nation’s oldest and most historic college men’s volleyball programs, in 2014 had its second consecutive season with at least 20 victories. The Cardinals also reached the MIVA Tournament semifinals and were among the teams under consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
IPFW returns a majority of starters after having its first top-four finish in the MIVA since 2007 and reaching the conference tournament semifinals. This also will be the final season for the Mastodons under AVCA Hall of Fame coach Arnie Ball, who will retire at the end of the upcoming season.
Penn State last season won its 15th consecutive EIVA championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament semifinals before losing to the eventual NCAA champions Loyola. Among the starters returning for the Nittany Lions includes All-American outside attacker Aaron Russell, who spent the off-season training with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
St. Francis despite having several starters missing a majority of last year because of injuries finished in fifth place in the EIVA. In addition, the Red Flashes enter 2015 searching for their first berth to the four-team EIVA Tournament since 2011.
This will be the largest multi-site non-conference tournament in college men’s volleyball during the upcoming season. It also is the first non-conference event created by Off the Block.
Off the Block is a national award winning college men’s volleyball website and has become among the nation’s leaders in covering college men’s volleyball.