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Ball hopes young IPFW team grows up quickly

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Ohio State at IPFW
First serve: 7 p.m. Saturday

Mastodons lost big chance at home against Ball State

Friday, March 22, 2013 - 9:46 pm

Anybody who thinks being inducted into the hall of fame is making Arnie Ball consider retirement didn't see Ball bull his way into his team's huddle after Thursday night's 3-1 loss to Ball State.

He had something to say, and by gosh, those players were going to hear it up close and personal.

``We quit!'' Ball barked. ``We haven't done that all year, but we quit!''

Don't expect him to any time soon, though. He believes in these players too much to let them slide now.

IPFW honored the longtime coach with a pre-match ceremony for his recent induction into the American Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame, and then he hoped his players would perform well enough to receive their own accolades against their archrivals.

After all, the Mastodons had won at Ball State earlier this year and had beaten a pair of ranked teams recently. Ball felt his squad was finally ready to bloom at home.

They may just be too young yet. At the very least, they are lacking a leader to step up at critical times.

IPFW won the first game 25-19, but then lost the next three 25-22, 25-19, 25-22. They played hard, but not always smart, energetically but not always with the most maturity.

That makes some sense because so many of them are freshmen and sophomores. The problem is it's tough for anyone else to be a team leader when the best players are so young. They have to grow into the role, and Ball is trying to push along the process.

Eddie Rivera may be the most-gifted player IPFW has had in a decade, but the junior will make a spectacular play on one ball and then go back and serve it into the net on the next rotation. Setter Omar Rivera has unbelievable hands, but he's a sophomore, too, and needs to run the team instead of trying to keep everyone happy.

Freshman Andy Sellan's powerful right arm and springy legs may give him the best prospects for international play in the future, and he's probably the person who should take charge, but he's only been playing volleyball for two years. Luis Bertran could be the best libero IPFW has ever had, but he's also a freshman.

It's when they start to think they might be pretty good that the Mastodons fall into trouble. They are young with the way they play sometimes, too, showing athletic brilliance and then complete inconsistency, sometimes in the same play.

At times, Ball looks like he's dealing with a bunch of teenagers who listen to what the coach has to say and then go out and try to prove they can do it on their own anyway. It's nerve-wracking for the coach because sometimes he must let them try and fail to make sure they learn what they are supposed to.

That's why Thursday was so frustrating. It was supposed to be his night, their coming-out party and a big win against Ball State. Instead, they took a six-pack spike off the face.

The Mastodons and Ball will find out Saturday against No. 8-ranked Ohio State how much they learned from the loss and how quickly they can grow up. Maybe they'll also find out how good they can be. Volleyball is about momentum, and Ball is trying to push his youngsters to build some in a hurry.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com .