I-69 rivalry renewed Wednesday against IPFW
The Daily News
Not with the mindset that head coach Steve Shondell has, and not with IPFW right around the corner.
Playing in its first home match of the season, the team has two options. Either think about what could have been over the weekend, or focus on the rival that’s just 90 minutes north of Ball State.
“It’s really a natural rivalry, it’s the I-69 rivalry,” Shondell said. “We’ve played them a lot, usually every year and they slayed us last year.”
To reverse its fortune, Ball State will need to knock off an IPFW team that beat the Cardinals last season. IPFW went 25-7, earning a spot in the NCAA tournament.
IPFW is undefeated after knocking off Duquesne, Southern Illinois and Connecticut to begin the year.
A 3-0 start this season means the Mastodons are on senior Mindy Marx’s radar, knowing improvements must be made to get the upper hand.
Ball State committed seven blocking errors in its first three matches, which the other three teams combined for 12.
“There’ll be a focus on blocking,” Marx said. “It was something we struggled with over the weekend, so we’ll need to put up a big block to have a chance to win.”
The biggest threat to the Cardinals defense will be Emily Spencer. The junior outside hitter has 53 kills, the highest mark on IPFW, and was named Summit League Player of the Year last season.
A familiar foe, Spencer ripped Ball State for 21 kills last fall, leading her team to a 3-1 match victory.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them because of what they’ve done to us in the past,” Shondell said. “It doesn’t take a whole lot to get up to play because of the talent level.”
For Shondell, the IPFW match isn’t any different than any other non-conference match. He said that no matter how big the win is or how devastating the loss, it only counts as one match in the final standings.
A win against the Mastodons could help the Cardinals’ chances of reaching the NCAA tournament. When selections for the tournament are made, officials look who the teams on the bubble have had success against.
Wins against strong programs help boost tournament chances.
To have success on Wednesday, Ball State will need strong contributions from Hayley Benson. A middle blocker and opposite hitter, Benson has 32 kills and just one error which is good for a .517 attack percentage.
Benson knows the first step towards winning the match against IPFW is preparation.
“I’ll be going over scouting reports tonight and getting in the mindset of having a game tomorrow,” Benson said. “Weekday games are hard because you’ve got homework and class ... I’ve got a game that I really need to be focusing on right now.”
The game can’t come soon enough for Marx either, who said she’ll be thinking about it all day, wishing she could be on the court instead of in the classroom.
With the entire team focused on winning its match against IPFW, one thing is certain.
It seems they’ve put last Saturday’s loss in the rear-view mirror.