Ball State women's tennis coach Max Norris called upon his team to prove its value with Mid-American Conference play starting this weekend.
“It’s the time to demonstrate how much better you’ve gotten over the course of the season,” Norris said. “The No. 1 goal is to win every match, but the second goal is to be playing your best at the end of the year. It’s time to come together as a team and finish strong.”
After winning both the MAC regular season and tournament last year, the Cardinals are 12-2 and head into this weekend’s game with a seven-game win streak.
“One of the things why our team is good and why we’ve gotten better as a program is because everybody takes everything so seriously from the get-go,” Norris said. “I remember even my first year here, that was kind of one of the big things I was trying to impress upon the team.”
Norris highlighted two performances in particular — bouncing back for a 9 a.m. match against UNC-Greensboro after playing a doubleheader the first day of the season and a narrow 4-3 win against Western Kentucky on March 6.
In fact, the match against Western Kentucky, played in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, marks the last time Ball State played two consecutive away games over a weekend. It won both matches.
At noon Friday, the Cardinals kick off their 2017 MAC campaign with a trip to Western Michigan University (6-7). However, most importantly for Ball State, four of 6 of its wins have come at home.
"Their coach, Ryan [Tomlinson], he does a really good job of getting the best out of their abilities," Norris said.
On Sunday, the Cardinals travel west to play the Northern Illinois Huskies at 1 p.m. in Rockford, Illinois.
The Huskies’ are 6-8 going into MAC play, but five wins were in home matches. Before they play Miami, the team carried a six-game losing streak on its shoulders. Northern Illinois didn't make last year’s MAC Tournament, but Norris said it could make the cut this season.
“Northern Illinois is up and coming and they’re going to be trying to make a name for themselves," Norris said. "They’ve improved a lot as a team. They brought in two new players who are pretty good; they play in the top three. For that match, it’s going to be real important — whether we win or lose on Friday — we come out with a lot of energy and a lot of toughness and worry about ourselves.”
Friday's match against Western Michigan is scheduled to begin at noon in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Sunday's match against Northern Illinois begins at 1 p.m. Central Standard time (2 p.m. Eastern) in Rockford, Illinois.