Rhett Umphress

Kylee Baker smacked her seventh kill of the night off the outstretched arms of a Toledo player and the celebration was on.

It wasn't a long celebration though.

Yes, the familiar strains of Queen's "We Are the Champions" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" echoed through Worthen Arena, and the players gathered at center court for a victory photo to document the moment the Cardinals won their first Mid-American Conference West Division championship since 2004.

But Thursday's 25-18, 25-17, 25-19 win for Ball State (23-4, 13-2 MAC) was just another step in a longer journey.

Junior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl said the team will celebrate the win until it goes back to work Friday morning for practice.

"Nothing really changes," she said. "It doesn't really feel different to me at least. I know it's exciting for everybody. We're MAC champions. It's cool.

"Coming in to the gym [Friday] is another day of work."

Coach Steve Shondell said the team still has another big match on its schedule this weekend.

"I guess we get to enjoy it for at least 24 hours, but come Saturday we've got to be ready for Akron," Shondell said.

Turning Ball State's nine-game winning streak into a 10-game streak Saturday is important for the rest of the season.

"That match is very significant just to maintain the RPI in case we need to get an at-large bid," Shondell said. "That's a big match for us on Saturday night."

After the Zips comes the MAC Tournament, where the Cardinals will have a target on them as the No. 1 seed.

"Everyone says that if you win the conference, you can't win the tournament. It's ‘impossible,'" Brandl said. "But I think we're going to be the team to prove that wrong."

Brandl said the players can be happy to be the regular-season champions, but they can't let up now.

"Everyone is excited to win the MAC, because we are doing so well," she said. "I think it's good that we're excited, but we can't come in relaxed at all."

While the season isn't over by any means, the Cardinals did accomplish something they can treasure, Brandl said.

"Our seniors can enjoy this for the rest of their lives," she said.