IPFW will be test right from the start of the upcoming season.
The Mastodons announced Tuesday that they will open their season with three non-conference matches against likely nationally ranked teams at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational.
The annual two-day college men’s volleyball tournament will open with IPFW playing Cal State Northridge on Jan. 9. In addition, IPFW later that day is scheduled to play UCLA before closing out the tournament the following day against UC Santa Barbara.
This is the second consecutive year that the Mastodons will compete in the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. IPFW last season went 2-2 in the exhibition pool-play round — including sweeping UCLA and Cal State Northridge — and then beat Cal Baptist in the fifth-place match.
Unlike last season, though, the UC Santa Barbara changed its format for the upcoming year to eliminate the exhibition matches and each match at the tournament will count towards a team’s overall season record.
These tournament matches will also be the first time IPFW has played UCLA, UC Santa Barbara or Cal State Northridge in a regulation match since 2007 when the Gauchos swept a two-match road series against the Mastodons.
All three West Coast teams finished last season in the national rankings. In addition, UC Santa Barbara beat UCLA in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals, while Cal State Northridge did not qualify for the eight-team conference tournament.
IPFW enters the 2015 season after it had its first 20-win season since 2007 and reached the MIVA Tournament semifinals. A majority of starters also return from the team that was ranked No. 14 in the final national coaches poll.
Along with its trip to the UC Santa Barbara Invitational, IPFW on Tuesday unveiled the rest of its regular season schedule for coach Arnie Ball’s final season.
The Hall of Fame coach and founder of IPFW volleyball announced in May that he would retire following the 2015 season.
IPFW’s home opening weekend in Ball’s final season will feature non-conference matches against St. Francis and Penn State. In addition, the regular season home finale for IPFW will be against its in-state rival Ball State, Ball’s alma mater and where he started playing volleyball in the 1960s.