One of the toughest road environments in college men’s volleyball awaits Ball State during the opening weeks of the upcoming season.
Ball State as part of releasing its 2019 schedule announced Tuesday that it will travel to Smith Fieldhouse for road non-conference against BYU on Jan. 12.
“We’re especially excited for that BYU match because it’s a great place to play with the passion that the people at BYU have for men’s volleyball,” Ball State coach Joel Walton said in a statement. “It will be a fun environment for our guys to play in.”
BYU en route to winning the MPSF championship and reaching the NCAA Tournament last season finished with the nation’s second-best home attendance average at 3,425 people. In addition, the Cougars are 64-9 at Smith Fieldhouse in the last five seasons, including going 11-3 at home in 2018.
Both Ball State and BYU were nationally ranked to end the 2018 season.
The Cardinals at times last season were in the top 10 of the national coaches poll and national media and ended the year advancing to the MIVA Tournament semifinals. The Cougars following their third straight VolleyFour appearance finished at No. 3 in the both national polls.
This will be the second consecutive year that BYU and Ball State will play each other.
Freshman All-American opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez had 13 kills on a .458 attack percentage along with both a match-high three aces and 11 digs in a four-game road victory against Ball State last season.
The non-conference win was one of seven matches during Fernandez’s freshman season that he had double-digit kills while hitting at least .400. Fernandez also end the season among the nation’s leaders with a 3.49 kills per game average.
Ball State returns a majority of starters from last season’s team, including outside attacker Matt Szews.
Szews a year removed from earning Freshman All-American honors ended his sophomore season leading Ball State and was in the MIVA’s top 10 averaging 2.78 kills per game. In addition, Szews was one of six Ball State players with more than 100 digs as the Cardinals had a nation-best 10.45 digs per game average last season.
BYU leads the all-time series 11-4. The Cougars are 8-1 at home against the Cardinals and swept the most recent two-match home series in 2015.
Along with playing BYU, Ball State will have four road or neutral site matches versus MPSF and Big West teams next season.
Ball State as part of its Western road trip to BYU will play Stanford on Jan. 10. it also will play Pepperdine and the host school Hawai’i at the Outrigger Invitational in March.