Until the Mid-American Conference Tournament is here, Ball State coach Craig Roberts said he won’t stress the importance of certain games to his team. 

Even with the Cardinals stuck firmly in a four-team race for the MAC West Division title, Roberts said wins aren’t a necessity at this point.    

“We don’t look at any game specifically to see what we can get out of it,” Roberts said. “My constant focus is to make sure we’re enhancing our in-game performance. You can win the regular season, but at the end of the day, it’s the MAC Tournament you need to win to advance onto the NCAA’s. That’s something that’s never been done in Ball State history. It’s something we continually look to challenge.”

Perhaps Ball State can ask Toledo for its blueprint to making that postseason leap when the two teams play Friday.

In four of the past six seasons, Toledo has won the MAC Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Rockets’ latest automatic bid came in 2011.

Toledo (3-2-1 MAC, 5-8-1 overall) has the history of success, but Ball State (3-1-2 MAC, 6-4-4 overall) currently sits one spot ahead in the West Division standings. Only five points separate the top four teams.  

“We still have a chance to win the whole thing [West Division], but we just need to be consistent,” Roberts said. “Everyone contesting for the title is having their negative steps. It’s about the team that can be the most consistent.”

Roberts was referring to his team’s tie against Western Michigan on Sunday. After beating previously unbeaten Eastern Michigan on Friday, Ball State dominated the whole game, but couldn’t secure the win. 

“We’re getting down to the end of the season so we want to keep pushing forward,” junior midfielder Kelsey Shapiro said. “We’re aiming for a MAC Championship, so we want to keep winning those games.”

Roberts said he wasn’t overly concerned with the result because the Cardinals got points, but ties aren’t something the team gets excited about anymore. 

“Where we’re going in trying to win games, Western is looking to seek a point out of each game,” Roberts said. “That can be done against teams. Whether it’s enough to get you into the tournament, we’ll soon find out. We’re past the stage where we’re trying to present the bare essentials.”

Roberts isn’t looking at matchups past Toledo, but this weekend’s games carry extra importance considering the team’s strength of schedule to finish the season. 

Ball State plays against West Division leading Central Michigan and conference-leading Miami in its final two games. 

If the season ended today, Ball State would be the fourth seed behind Eastern Michigan and the aforementioned teams. 

Roberts doesn’t seem worried, however. He said he likes the Cardinals’ chances against anyone once the postseason starts. 

“We still have to play Central, so we can pick them off,” Roberts said. “If we tie, we start to dig ourselves a whole. But as far as making the tournament, we’re right on course. When I first got here, that was a big accomplishment. Now we want to be more in contention for [the championship].”