Check out what to know about each team competing in the Off the Block East vs. Midwest Challenge this weekend.
NO. 10 PENN STATE
Current record: 0-2
EIVA championships: 30
NCAA Tournament appearances: 29
Entering the weekend: After opening the season at No. 3 in the preseason national rankings, Penn State lost to No. 8 UC Irvine and No. 10 Hawai’i at the Outrigger Invitational last week. All-American outside attacker Aaron Russell in the losses, though, led the Nittany Lions with a combined 29 kills. Russell is one of six starters returning from last year’s team that reached the NCAA Tournament semifinals. Penn State last season also went 6-3 against the MIVA, including regular season home victories against Ball State and IPFW.
No. 14 IPFW
Current record: 1-2
MIVA championships: 6
NCAA Tournament appearances: 6
Entering the weekend: IPFW upset then-No. 13 Cal State Northridge in five games in its season-opener last weekend at the Asics Invitational. The Mastodons finished the premier West Coast non-conference 1-2, including almost upsetting No. 4 UC Santa Barbara before losing a fourth-game overtime. All-MIVA setter Omar Rivera and All-MIVA opposite Andrew Sellan both return to IPFW after helping the program last season win its first postseason match since 2007. This is also the final season for Hall of Fame coach Arnie Ball before he retires.
Current record: 2-0
MIVA championships: 21
NCAA Tournament appearances: 15
Entering the weekend: Ball State opened its season on the road with non-conference victories against Mount Olive and Barton during the weekend. Outside attacker Marcin Niemczewski, who was named to the watch list for the inaugural National Outside Attacker of the Year award, had a match-high 17 kills on a .556 attack percentage in the four-game win against Mount Olive. The Cardinals now return to Worthen Arena where last year they were among the nation’s leaders in home attendance. In addition, Ball State despite having an all-time losing record versus Penn State has won their last two home matches against the Nittany Lions.
Current record: 0-4
EIVA championships: 0
NCAA Tournament appearances: 0
Entering the weekend: The Red Flashes went winless at the Asics Invitational during the weekend, but they left a positive impression at the non-conference tournament. St. Francis at the tournament almost pulled off an upset against then-No. 5 UCLA before losing in four games. Opposite Mike Marshman also had a team-high five blocks in a three-game loss to then-No. 13 Cal State Northridge. In addition, St. Francis enters the East vs. Midwest Challenge having beaten Ball State and IPFW once in the last two years.