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Last updated: Thu. Feb. 20, 2014 - 02:45 am EDT

IPFW ready for challenge from Lewis

Volleydons middle hitters playing well during win streak

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Follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

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IPFW vs. Lewis

First serve: 7 p.m.

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If there's any hint of looking ahead to Saturday's match against No. 1-ranked Loyola, the IPFW men's volleyball team could get a quick refocus tonight against No. 10 Lewis. The match starts at 7 p.m. at Hilliard Gates Sports Center, and the Volleydons better be ready from the start.

"We have a strong rivalry with Lewis, so that's not an issue at all,'' IPFW coach Arnie Ball said. "Last year we split with them and our kids are believing right now, so they are excited to play. I couldn't draw up a better scenario for us.''

IPFW, 7-2 and 2-1 in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, won four straight road games over the last two weekends, and the Volleydons are looking forward to playing six of their next seven matches at home.

It helps that junior middle hitter Bryan Saunders was named the conference's offensive Player of the Week on Monday after leading wins over Lindenwood and Quincy. He paces the team in hitting this season attacking at a .406 clip, which ranks third in the MIVA and seventh in the nation. He also ranks third on the squad with 85 kills, averaging 2.50 per set.

Middle hitter Ramon Burgos has also been hitting well, meaning this match could come down to IPFW's middles against the outside hitting power of the Flyers, 9-3, 1-1 in conference. Greg Petty and Geoff Powell are powerful and athletic.

"Our middles have been very good the whole season, so it becomes a matter of whether we can handle their service and run the middle,'' Ball said. "If they don't serve the ball and take us out of our offense we can give them a lot of trouble.''

Junior setter Omar Rivera's sets to a balanced offense have helped IPFW rank among the national leaders in team hitting.

"His choices are very good, and it's the first time since he's been here that we've been willing to run the middle in situations where you probably wouldn't,'' Ball said. "The numbers are showing up, and it's opening up our offense.''

Success in the middle has also opened up the defense in front of outside hitter and team captain Eddie Rivera.

bsebring@news-sentinel.com


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