Daniel Sipocz

If Ball State was given all it could handle Thursday night at Toledo, Buffalo could up the ante.

The Cardinals will have to defend against slide attacks, an exposed weakness their 25-23, 16-25, 26-28, 25-21, 15-10 victory over the Rockets.

"Slide attacks are some of the toughest sets to defend," coach Steve Shondell said. "Hitters are floating through the air rather than coming straight at you."

These attacks gave Ball State (14-3, 4-1 Mid-American Conference) trouble against Toledo (5-10, 0-5). The defense came through late, blocking a couple attacks to neutralize the Rockets slide attacks and pick up a tough road win.

It will take more of the same to beat Buffalo.

"Sometimes it's difficult to prepare though because we focus on the first team so the second team gets a little less attention," senior libero Alyssa Rio said. "Any team can beat each other, so we have to constantly realize that we've got two games this weekend, not just one."

The mental aspect of the game is something Shondell and his staff have focused on this season. The mix of mature veterans and youth have taken to what Shondell is preaching.

Ball State is 4-0 in five-set matches and is in first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division. The Cardinals are also 60th in the RPI.

"Being 4-1 is really big for us," junior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl said. "Everyone in the MAC is really good this year, but the only team that can really beat us is ourselves. When we make mistakes we lose. When we don't, we win."

Shondell knows all he can do is coach his team. There are times when he stands off to the side and talks to players individually for 20 minutes or more, coaching them through situations.

He's also worked with the team in dealing with expectations. Opponents' expectations for Ball State weren't high at the start of the MAC schedule, but at 4-1, the Cardinals are drawing everyone's attention.

"As coaches we try to guide the girls the best we can. I can't do it for them," Shondell said. "They have to be able to handle expectations."