Maybe, finally, Arnie Ball has his team figured out. At least he hopes so.
It might have been in the nick of time.
The IPFW men's volleyball team opens Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament play at Ball State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Ball State is the No. 3 seed, and the Volleydons are the No. 6 seed.
With a 12-match winning streak, Ball State might be the hottest team in the country. Ever since a five-match losing streak in February, the Cardinals, 20-5, have been white-hot and have climbed to No. 9 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.
That's Ball State's longest winning streak since the Cardinals won 15 in a row in 1982 when they were led by former Harding players Corky Robertson, Brian Hyde and Randy Litchfield.
As hot as Ball State has been, that's how inconsistent IPFW has been. The Volleydons are 13-12 despite beating four ranked teams this season.
``If I could figure it out, I'd make sure we played ranked teams all the time,'' Ball said. ``I guess we're going to get the chance to play one on Saturday.''
IPFW beat Ball State in Muncie 3-1 on Feb. 13, and the Cardinals won in Fort Wayne 3-1 on March 21.
The Volleydons were going through a 6-2 streak until they lost at Lindenwood and at Quincy on April 5 and 6. They also lost at No. 11 Loyola before coming home to beat No. 9 Lewis 3-0 last weekend.
``I gave the kids a little time off,'' Ball said. ``I wonder if I over-trained them a little bit. It seemed to pay off Saturday night. I don't know if it worked, but they seem to think it did. I've had people tell me that before, and maybe I didn't pay close enough attention.''
IPFW played possibly its best match of the season against Lewis, hitting 48 percent for the match, their best percentage since 2006.
``We're in a great mood mentally,'' Ball said. ``The only downside is that finals are coming up, but I don't have any reason to think we won't go down there and play really well. I have to think that what I'm trying to do now is the right thing. We can't be any better prepared than we are right now.''
The winner will advance to the conference semifinals on Wednesday, likely at No. 2 seeded Loyola.