Ball State schedules first meeting vs. ConfCarolinas school Emmanuel  

The non-conference schedule for Emmanuel will be a challenge right from the start of the season.

Emmanuel as part of unveiling its 2018 schedule announced it make an early season non-conference road trip to play Ball State in the program’s first match versus a projected nationally ranked team.

This will be the first all-time meeting between Ball State and Emmanuel. The Lions also are making their first trip to the Midwest since beginning their transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II in 2014.

Emmanuel ended last season in eighth place in the ConfCarolinas but was ineligible for the eight-team conference tournament because of its transition to the NCAA Division II. It was the second straight year that the Lions would have made the postseason if they were eligible.

Among the starters returning for Emmanuel includes setter Caleb Bonaventure, who concluded last season in the ConfCarolinas’ top five with an 8.91 assists per game average.

Ball State was ranked No. 12 in the final national coaches poll. The Cardinals ended the 2017 regular season in fourth place in the MIVA, and it almost upset the eventual NCAA champions Ohio State in the MIVA Tournament semifinals.

Outside attacker Matt Szews and middle attacker Matt Walsh highlight Ball State’s returning starters.

Szews, an Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Freshman All-American, was among the conference leaders with a 3.37 kills per game average and spent the off-season playing for the United States at the FIVB U21 World Championship. In addition, Walsh enters his senior season after leading the nation with .449 attack percentage and being a 2017 finalist for the Ryan Millar Award.

Ball State since 2012 is undefeated against ConfCarolinas teams, including a sweep versus Erskine last year.

The match against the Cardinals on Jan. 6 will conclude the two-match Midwest road trip for the Lions. Emmanuel will open its season versus Fort Wayne on Jan. 5.