WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State hopes to return winning tradition to Worthen Arena
Worthen Arena, the home of the Ball State women's volleyball team, hasn't been a place for success. In the past four seasons, the Cardinals have struggled to a 17-32 regular-season record at home, winning no more than six games in Worthen Arena during that span.
That record is not only unacceptable for first-year coach Steve Shondell, but one he intends to change starting Friday when Ball State hosts the Active Ankle Challenge.
"We've been looking forward to this a long time," Shondell said. "We're looking for the best turnout possible from the community to help us reestablish Worthen Arena as we win and play well at [home]."
Confidence is high after the Cardinals won the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougar Classic last weekend. En route to the title, Ball State made short work of its opponents, sweeping all nine sets played.
"Big players come to play in big matches," assistant coach Kelli Miller said. "It doesn't get any bigger than a home opener with a large crowd. We're all excited for the girls to get to play in front of a large crowd."
Even with momentum on their side with a 3-0 start to the season, the Cardinals enter the weekend focused and aware of the capabilities of their opponents. Miller noted that early in the season, any team can be the surprise team of the year.
Oakland University (1-3), Tennessee State (0-1) and Robert Morris (2-2) pose different threats and styles of play for Ball State to handle.
"The main thing is to play our game and be who we are," senior libero Alyssa Rio said. "We need to play fast and take them out of balance."
The up-tempo offense had a successful start last week when freshmen Whitney Heeres and Kylee Baker combined for 67 kills on the left side. However, the production on the right side and middle are the focus of the coaching staff.
"We were happy with the way we played, especially on the outside," assistant coach Corey Carlin said. "We can always improve though. We need to improve in the middle and right side."
There are multiple options to help senior Charde' Phillips on the right side. Junior Jennifer Boyd could see time on the right side as could freshman backup setter Jacqui Seidel.
"Jacqui has an important role on this team," Shondell said. "She's a great athlete. We want to be able to utilize her as much as possible."
The Cardinals have set high expectations for the weekend, beginning with the first match against Tennessee State at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"We all expect to win matches," Rio said. "We want to win 3-0 in each match."