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Coach Arnie Ball is not holding back the necessity of his team's first two conference matches -- even with them being against teams projected to finish at the bottom of the standings.
The Hall of Fame coach said Thursday that the IPFW men's volleyball team's weekend home MIVA matches against Quincy and Lindenwood are practically must-wins if the Mastodons are likely to be successful in the MIVA this season.
"This is pretty critical to our season. Being at home, and this is two conference teams that technically I think we should beat, but I know we are equal," Ball said. "Boy, if you lose these and don't get off to a good start. Then we go on the road to Ohio State, Ball State and Loyola. Holy cow it would be a long next few weeks."
IPFW (3-2, 0-0 MIVA) opens its MIVA season against Lindenwood at 7 p.m. Friday at the Gates Center before concluding its three-match homestand against Quincy at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Lindenwood (0-3, 0-2 MIVA) in its inaugural season in the MIVA after transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II opened conference play last weekend with two losses to No. 10 Ohio State. In addition, the Lions were projected to finish the MIVA in sixth place in the conference preseason coaches poll -- one spot behind the Mastodons.
Quincy (4-3, 0-0 MIVA) was picked to finish in last place in the preseason MIVA poll and enters this weekend on a 20-match losing streak against IPFW dating back to 2003.
Despite it being early in the season, All-MIVA outside attacker Eddie Rivera said every IPFW player while preparing for these two matches this week was aware of these matches' importance.
"We are going to be facing really good teams," Rivera said. "It's more important in hopes that it will give us more confidence, especially playing a team like Lindenwood."
IPFW begins MIVA play having won three of its last four matches in non-conference play -- including a sweep against Lourdes, a NAIA school, last week.
Ball said the five non-conference matches leading up to the MIVA opener was invaluable experience for his young team that features four first-year starters. The coach also said the team's inexperience resulted in its two losses to St. Francis (Pa.) and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
"We just let down and made rookie errors," Ball said. "Hopefully we'll be pretty good by the end."
If IPFW can win its two MIVA matches this weekend it would be the first steps to finishing the regular season in the top half of the conference standings and earning the right to host to a MIVA Tournament match. IPFW has not had a home MIVA Tournament match since 2007 -- the last year the Mastodons also won postseason match as they won the conference and advanced to the NCAA Tournament championship match.
Rivera said having a home postseason match is one of the goals for IPFW. He also said he feels the Mastodons have the potential to surprise a lot of people in the MIVA this season.
"We know we're the underdog, but that doesn't mean anything in conference," Rivera said.