WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Five matches to watch this season
Four home matches, battle of brothers highlight Cardinals season
1. Ball State vs. Purdue – West Lafayette, Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.
It's a little over a two-hour drive to Purdue, but it's worth it to see this match. It pits Ball State coach Steve Shondell against his brother and Purdue coach Dave Shondell in their first ever collegiate match against each other. The Shondell family is one of the most well-known families in collegiate volleyball, so this match is certainly one of the biggest in the nation this season. With all of that in mind, it's still going to be a competitive match against two very good teams. Make the drive to West Lafayette come Sept. 10.
2. Ball State vs. Loyola – Muncie, Aug. 26, 7 p.m.
It's the season opener and the home opener against a team that Ball State shouldn't have much trouble defeating. In short, it's a feel-good match to start the year. Newcomers such as Maryland junior transfer Kara Bates and freshman Kelly Hopkins will be on display in front of the Worthen Arena crowd for the first time. Their skills should only add to an already talented Ball State squad this season.
3. Ball State vs. Toledo – Muncie, Sept. 22, 7 p.m.
This is a grudge match if there ever was one. Toledo made short work of Ball State last November in the Mid-American Conference Tournament to send the Cardinals packing early. This is also Ball State's first MAC match of the season, so it'll be looking to even the score against Toledo as well as make an early statement in the conference.
4. Ball State vs. Northern Illinois – Muncie, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.
Northern Illinois took all of the MAC preseason glory last week as it was voted as the MAC West champion, the regular season MAC champion and the MAC tournament champion. This will only be Ball State's third conference match of the year, so there won't be a better time to prove the MAC coaches wrong and topple the preseason giant. The Cardinals took down the Huskies in both of their matchups last season, so they should be capable of beating an improved Northern Illinois team.
5. Ball State vs. St. Louis – Muncie, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.
The MAC tournament takes place the week before this match, so if Ball State is crowned champion, they'll be playing in the NCAA tournament the week after playing St. Louis. No matter if they win or lose the MAC tournament, the Cardinals could use a great send-off from the home crowd.