by Kevin Buczek
WILSON, N.C.-The Barton College men's volleyball program will make over a 1,400 mile round trip to Indiana for a pair of matches against NCAA Division I opposition over the weekend of Feb. 28-Mar. 1.
The Bulldogs are slated to play at 14th-nationally ranked Ball State University on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and 15th ranked Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) on Saturday at 7 p.m.
BSU sports information will be providing Live Audio/Video (free) and Live Stats for Friday's match and IPFW will be providing Live Audio (Free), Live Video (PPV) and Live Stats for Saturday's contest.
Barton College Men's Volleyball
The Bulldogs have won three of their last four matches to move to 6-9 overall. Barton has a .124 hitting percentage on the season but has fired at a clip of .211 over its current four-match hot streak.
Junior libero Mike McMahon continues to maintain his stranglehold on the NCAA Division I-II digs per set lead making 3.39 digs per set. McMahon has lifted up at least 10 digs in 11 of BC's first 15 matches.
Offensively, Barton is led by junior Zach McCalla for a third consecutive year. McCalla is producing 4.0 points per set and has a .153 hitting percentage. The outside hitter has reached double figure kills in seven of the Bulldogs last eight matches while also averaging 1.18 digs, 0.52 blocks and 0.21 aces per set. McCalla slips into the nation's top-30 in both kills and points per set.
Freshmen Chad Stanback Jr. and Jonathan Novoa-Miralles have added depth on BC's attack averaging 2.55 and 2.28 kills per set, respectively. Both rookies have produced at least 10 points per match over the last four contests.
Novoa-Miralles was named to the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Freshman of the Week honorable mentions list for a second time this season on Feb. 24.
Fellow freshman Federico Pagliara has 8.60 assists per set as the Bulldogs setter and ranks second on the team with 1.77 digs per set.
The junior middle blocker duo of Ladislav Lelkes (0.97 blocks) and Tanner Medina (0.89) are providing BC with a tall front line defense. Lelkes (.220) and Medina (.180) have the Bulldogs best hitting percentages but are attempting far fewer swings that the squads pin hitters.
Barton lost to Ball State, 3-0, in Wilson, N.C., last season by set scores of 25-15, 25-12 and 25-13. It marked the first and only time the two programs had played each other in men's volleyball.
BC will play IPFW for the first time in the program's three-year history on Saturday.
Ball State University Men's Volleyball
The Cardinals ended a brief two-match skid with a 3-1 victory over No. 13 Ohio State University on Wednesday. Ball State owns an 8-5 overall record with four of its five losses coming against programs currently ranked in the AVCA top-15 poll.
BSU has a veteran offense that features six upperclassmen averaging at least one kill per set. Sophomore Marcin Niemczewski has taken over as the Cardinals top option with 3.70 kills per set that ranks 16th nationally after limited playing time as a freshman. Niemczewski has a .245 hitting percentage and also provides 1.74 digs and 0.79 blocks per set.
Ball State hits .242 as a team and gets big production from senior Larry Wrather (2.05 kills/.268), junior Shane Witmer (1.75/.191), senior Kevin Owens (1.59/.331), and senior Matt Leske (1.40/.362).
Owens – a 2013 Volleyball NCAA All-American – ranks 13th in the nation in hitting percentage and is second on the team with 0.92 blocks per set. Leske paces the Cardinals and ranks eighth nationally with 1.40 blocks per set.
Another experienced BSU player orchestrates the offense in senior setter Graham McIlvaine, who is averaging 9.66 assists per set. Junior libero chips in a team-best 2.14 digs per set.
Ball State hit .576 in its straight set win at Barton in 2013.
Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne Men's Volleyball
The Mastodons enter a five-match homestand after suffering a 3-1 setback to top-ranked Loyola Chicago last Saturday. IPFW is 8-3 overall and will host Barton's local rival University of Mount Olive on Friday night before entertaining the Bulldogs on Saturday.
All three of the Mastodons losses have come against teams currently ranked in the AVCA top-15 while picking up a pair of wins against teams ranked at the time of the match.
Junior setter Omar Rivera ranks fourth in NCAA Division I-II with 11.37 assists per set. Rivera is setting up a powerful IPFW offense that ranks fourth nationally with 13.60 kills per set.
Seven Mastodons are averaging at least two kills per set. Senior Eddie Rivera – a three-time All-MIVA honoree – leads IPFW with 3.26 kills per set (31st). Rivera also paces the Mastodons defensively with 2.12 digs per set. IPFW ranks ninth with 9.56 digs per set.
Sophomore Andrew Sellan (.235) follows Eddie Rivera with 2.65 kills per set. Juniors Bryan Saunders (2.47/.421) and Ramon Burgos (2.46/.347) both rank nationally in the top-15 in hitting accuracy for a IPFW attack that fires at a staggering .298.
Defensively, IPFW gets a team-best 0.82 blocks per set from Burgos. The Mastodons have a half dozen players averaging at least one dig per set. Sophomore libero Luis Bertran ranks just behind Eddie Rivera with 2.05 digs per set.