A season opening trip to Puerto Rico and playing Long Beach State in a non-conference tournament highlights the IPFW 2012 regular season schedule that the team released earlier this week.
IPFW finished last season in fifth place in the MIVA and lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals. The Mastodons have five starters returning for the upcoming season, including All-MIVA outside attacker Eddie Rivera.
Check out the five things to take away from IPFW’s schedule for the 2012 season.
Five things to know about the schedule
1. Active Ankle Challenge
The Mastodons’ only non-conference matches this season against a Division I-II team that finished last year in the national rankings will be during a mid-season West Coast road trip. IPFW will play Long Beach State, which finished last season No. 6 in the coaches poll, during the Active Ankle Challenge on March 9-10 in Long Beach, Calif. IPFW is on a seven-match losing streak against Long Beach State and last defeated the 49ers in 1997. This will be the fourth time in the last six seasons IPFW has participated in the Active Ankle Challenge and its first appearance in the non-conference tournament since 2009. The Mastodons are 2-4 all-time at the Active Ankle Challenge with their victory coming in 2008.
2. Destination trip to start
After a one-year hiatus, IPFW will resume its annual series against the University of Puerto Rico. IPFW will open its season on the road with two exhibition matches at Puerto Rico. The two teams had met three consecutive years for a two-match series before not playing in 2011. These series in the previous years have also helped IPFW promote its program in the Caribbean. IPFW has two players on its roster from Puerto Rico — outside attackers Eddie Rivera and Ivan Matos. Both Rivera and Matos started for the Mastodons last season and were among the team leaders in kills averaging more than 2.50 kills per game.
3. Ending with the MIVA
IPFW will play the majority of its conference matches the season’s final month. The Mastodons will have eight of their 12 MIVA matches during the final five weeks of the regular season. As part of this stretch, IPFW will close out its season with matches against Ohio State, Loyola and Ball State — which finished last season in the top three of the MIVA standings. These final weeks could play a large role in determining IPFW’s seeding for the conference tournament. The Mastodons since reaching the 2007 NCAA championship match have not finished better than fifth place in the conference and are winless in the MIVA Tournament.
4. Loyola and Ball State
IPFW’s geographical rival is Ball State, but for coach Arnie Ball the team he most despises is Loyola. Ball added to that rivalry following a home loss to Loyola last season. The coach in his postmatch news conference went on a tirade about his dislike for Loyola and how the Ramblers are the Mastodons’ biggest rivals. IPFW fans have traditionally considered in-state rival Ball State to be its biggest rival. The News-Sentinel, a newspaper in Fort Wayne, even ranked the Ball State-IPFW men’s volleyball rivalry as one of the best sporting events for a Hoosier to attend during their lifetime. The debate of IPFW’s biggest rival aside, IPFW will play Ball State on Feb. 18 and April 7 and Loyola on Feb. 24 and April 14.
5. Carolinas road trip
For the first time in its program history, IPFW will play a road match against a Conference Carolinas team. IPFW will travel for a two-match series against Mount Olive on Jan. 27-28. Mount Olive has won back-to-back Conference Carolinas regular season championships. The Conference Carolinas is a Division II conference that sponsored men’s volleyball in 2009 and will become eligible for an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament in 2014. This will be the Mastodons’ second match all-time against a Conference Carolinas team. IPFW defeated King College in four games in 2010.
IPFW 2012 regular season schedule
Jan. 6 at Puerto Rico (Exhibition)
Jan. 7 at Puerto Rico (Exhibition)
7 p.m. Jan. 13 at George Mason
7 p.m. Jan. 14 at St. Francis
7 p.m. Jan. 20 vs. St. Francis
7 p.m. Jan. 21 vs. George Mason
7 p.m. Jan. 27 at Mount Olive
1 p.m. Jan. 28 at Mount Olive
7 p.m. Feb. 3 vs. Lewis*
Feb. 4 vs. Alumni (Exhibition)
7 p.m. Feb. 10 vs. Ohio State*
7 p.m. Feb. 11 vs. Cardinal Stritch
7 p.m. Feb. 17 vs. Carthage
7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Ball State*
8 p.m. Feb. 24 at Loyola*
7 p.m. March 2 vs. NJIT
7 p.m. March 3 vs. NJIT
March 9 at Long Beach State
March 10 at Long Beach State
7 p.m. March 16 vs. Grand Canyon*
7 p.m. March 17 vs. Grand Canyon*
8 p.m. March 23 at Lewis*
8 p.m. March 24 at Carthage
8 p.m. March 30 at Quincy*
8 p.m. March 31 at Quincy*
7 p.m. April 7 vs. Ball State*
7 p.m. April 13 at Ohio State*
7 p.m. April 14 vs. Loyola*
*Denotes MIVA match
All times EST