2024 First Point Collegiate Challenge

Ball State Men's Volleyball 2024: What To Know

Ball State Men's Volleyball 2024: What To Know

Ball State men’s volleyball is called “A Muncie Tradition” by the school, and it’s easy to see why it’s so revered by Cardinals fans.

Jan 5, 2024 by Briar Napier
Ball State Men's Volleyball 2024: What To Know

Ball State men’s volleyball is called “A Muncie Tradition” by the school, and as one of the longest-running varsity men’s volleyball programs anywhere in the United States, it’s easy to see why it’s so revered by Cardinals fans. 

A four-time national finalist, BSU men’s volleyball showed in the sport’s first few decades of play in the NCAA that it was possible to build an elite program away from the West Coast, home to many of the sport’s greatest teams. 

And, after a couple decades mostly away from the national spotlight, the Cardinals have been rolling once again over the past few seasons with a proven winner as head coach.

Nationally ranked to begin the 2024 season, and with aspirations to return to the NCAA Tournament, Ball State has the pedigree and history to stack up with some of the best of the best in college men’s volleyball. 

But can the Cardinals finally capture what would be their crowning achievement – a national championship – while they’re at it, too?

Here’s a look at all there is to know about one of the top collegiate men’s volleyball teams from the east, Ball State:

What Is The History Of Ball State Men’s Volleyball?

One of the oldest men’s volleyball programs anywhere – and especially east of the Mississippi River – Ball State has been around in the sport since 1964 and has been part of its fabric since, playing varsity games a full six years before the NCAA crowned its first official national champion in 1970. 

An elite program during the sport’s early days, the Cardinals made three national title matches from 1972-1980, and another in 1992, but they were beaten to the punch by Penn State in 1994 in being the first non-California school to win a men’s volleyball national championship. 

In recent years, the Cardinals have roared back to national prominence. 

Following a two-decade drought without any major hardware, BSU won its conference’s regular-season and tournament titles in 2022 for the first time since 2002. The Cardinals went on to share the regular-season league crown in 2023, too.

How Many National Championships Has Ball State Men’s Volleyball Won?

Even while having the coach who is second in all-time wins in the sport, Dr. Don Shondell, designated as the father of Ball State volleyball, the Cardinals have never captured the big one, missing out on a national championship in all four of their attempts (1972, 1976, 1980 and 1992). 

BSU is only just getting around to competing with the best of the best in the country once again, as well, with its NCAA Tournament appearance in 2022 being the program’s first in a 20-year stretch. 

Once there in 2022, the Cardinals were beaten in a five-set national semifinal by eventual national champion Hawaii.

Who Coaches Ball State Men’s Volleyball?

In 2024, Donan Cruz will be in his third season running the Ball State men’s volleyball program, but the Guam-born and NAIA-molded leader of the Cardinals already is rocketing up the ranks as one of the sport’s rising stars in coaching – if he’s not already one by now. 

Before succeeding the now-retired Joel Walton (who won over 400 games across 23 seasons in Muncie) following the 2021 campaign, Cruz was running a powerhouse program at Grand View (Iowa). 

Cruz built the program from the ground up and took the Vikings, who played the program’s first game in 2012, to two NAIA national championships across 10 seasons. 

Upon being hired for his first NCAA head coaching job, he immediately made an impact in his first season with the Cardinals (2022) by leading them to a 23-4 overall record and a trip to the national semifinals, earning him the AVCA National Coach of the Year Award. 

Another 20-win season followed in 2023, showing that BSU has no plans of being a mere flash in the pan with Cruz in charge.

Where Does Ball State Men’s Volleyball Play?

The Cardinals call Worthen Arena home, sharing the 11,500-seat arena with BSU’s women’s volleyball squad and gymnastics program, plus the men’s and women’s basketball teams. 

Attendance for bigger games can reach a few thousand. 

For the final of last season’s conference tournament against rival Ohio State, 3,153 fans packed the arena to watch the Cardinals try and take down the Buckeyes, though OSU was able to quiet the home crowd and prevail in four sets to advance to the NCAA Tournament. 

In What League Does Ball State Men’s Volleyball Play?

Since the school’s usual athletics league, the Mid-American Conference, does not sponsor men’s

volleyball, the Cardinals instead play volleyball as a member of the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.

Ball State was a founding member of the league and joins Ohio State as the only members to have been with the MIVA for its entire existence. 

A strong league, which has seen members OSU (2011, 2016, 2017), Loyola Chicago (2014, 2015) and Lewis (which won a since-vacated title in 2003) take home national championships, the Buckeyes and Cardinals have vacuumed up most of the league’s hardware as its two longest-serving schools. 

BSU has won 38 conference titles (23 regular-season, 15 tournament) and OSU 45 (28 regular-season, 17 tournament), while no other school has captured more than 12 championships.

Ball State Men’s Volleyball Notable Alumni

Ball State had only had two AVCA first-team All-Americans prior to 2022, with setter Eduardo Ferraz (1996-1997) and attacker Paul Fasshauer (2002) being the only Cardinals to receive the honor. 

In BSU’s groundbreaking 2022 campaign, it had two more first-team All-Americans. 

Quinn Issacson was one of them, earning the Lloy Ball Award that year as the nation’s top setter. He used that success to propel him to a professional career overseas and appearances for the United States’ men’s volleyball national team. 

The other Ball State first-teamer from the 2022 season, outside attacker Kaleb Jenness, closed his decorated career with the Cardinals in 2023 as a four-time All-MIVA first-team selection. He also was the 2022 MIVA Player of the Year and one of the most dangerous players at the net to ever suit up for the program. He now plays professionally in Poland. 

First Point Collegiate Challenge Schedule

All Times Central

Jan. 19

  • 1:30 p.m. – No. 12 USC vs. No. 11 Ball State
  • 4 p.m. – No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 7 Ohio State
  • 6:30 p.m. – No. 9 Stanford vs. No. 3 Penn State

Jan. 20

  • 1:30 p.m. – No. 12 USC vs No. 7 Ohio State
  • 4 p.m. – No. 9 Stanford vs No. 11 Ball State
  • 6:30 p.m. – No. 1 UCLA vs No. 3 Penn State

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