The inaugural Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge gets underway this weekend with No. 10 Penn State, No. 13 IPFW, Ball State and St. Francis all participating in the new college men’s volleyball event.
The Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge is a two-day, multiple-site non-conference event created by Off the Block in an effort promote and honor the history of both the EIVA and MIVA. The EIVA and MIVA are the oldest college men’s volleyball conferences and have produced numerous NCAA championship teams, All-Americans and future Olympics throughout their two histories.
Check out the top storylines to know before the Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge begins Friday.
1. Penn State looks for redemption — No. 10 Penn State not only enters the East vs. Midwest Challenge attempting to get its first win of the season, but trying to prevent what happened the last time it traveled to Indiana. Penn State will play road matches against Ball State and IPFW for the first time since 2012 when the Cardinals and Mastodons upset the Nittany Lions on back-to-back night. The Nittany Lions will also attempt to avoid starting a season on a three-match losing streak for the time since 1999. The team opened the season last weekend at the Outrigger Invitational losing to No. 8 UC Irvine and No. 10 Hawai’i.
2. IPFW outsides rolling early — IPFW all-conference opposite Andrew Sellan has already proved this season he can put up big offensive numbers against the top teams in the nation. Sellan had a team-high 17 kills in a four-game road loss to No. 4 UC Santa Barbara on Saturday at the Asics Invitational. This was the second time in three matches that the junior led the Mastodons in kills. Sellan also had 13 kills in a five-game upset victory against then-No. 13 Cal State Northridge on Friday. Along with Sellan, freshman outside attacker Alex Harthaller had 11 kills in the loss to UC Santa Barbara.
3. Ball State settling on a setter — Two matches into the starting setter role and Hiago Garchet has helped guide Ball State’s offense to more than a .400 attack percentage in both matches. Ball State had a combined .445 attack percentage in non-conference road victories against Mount Olive and Barton during the weekend. Garchet, who replaced graduated all-conference setter Graham McIlvaine, also 38 assists and two aces in the season-opener against Mount Olive. The upcoming home opener versus Penn State will be the first time Garchet has started against a nationally ranked team.
4. St. Francis seeks another upset — Forget about St. Francis’ record when it plays Ball State or IPFW and instead expect the possibility of an upset. The Red Flashes have upset either the Cardinals or Mastodons for three consecutive years. In addition, St. Francis last season had an early-season home victory against Ball State — one of the few non-conference losses for the Cardinals in 2014. The Red Flashes enter the Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge after going winless this weekend at the Asics Invitational but almost upset then-No. 5 UCLA at the non-conference tournament.