It’s no secret that players look forward to the start of conference play.

After spending weeks, sometimes months, playing teams that ultimately won’t affect a program’s spot in its conference tournament, players grow eager to go up against foes they’ve known for years.

The women’s volleyball team begins its Mid-American Conference schedule Friday at Eastern Michigan University, and this can’t come soon enough for senior Jacqui Seidel.

“I’m so excited; I can’t believe it’s already here,” Seidel said. “[Head coach] Steve [Shondell] talked to us about it [Sunday] about how if anybody should be the most excited, it should be us because we have a lot to prove.”

Ball State has already proven that it can’t be taken lightly. After being predicted in the preseason polls to finish fourth in the Mid-American Conference West, Ball State finished the non-conference schedule with a MAC West-best 12-3 record.

Now the team will have a chance to prove its ability inside the conference, and it starts with containing Eastern Michigan’s balanced offensive attack.

Outside hitter Stacey Perinar leads the Eagles in kills, but by a slim margin. The Eagles’ top four offensives threats all fall within 50 kills of each other.

Its top two setters also fall 32 assists away from each other, reinforcing that stopping Eastern Michigan can’t be about limiting one player.

It’ll be less about containing Perinar and more about playing solid defense as a whole, while maintaining composure on the road against what could be a very dangerous team.

“Sometimes, it can be hard to go away from your court and win,” Shondell said. “We’ve done it for the last four weekends, so we’re prepared.”

Part of Eastern Michigan’s offense comes from its serving. Combining for 100 aces, Eastern Michigan leads the MAC by a large margin, with Ball State in second with 74.

Strong serving will not only win points, but get the defense offset, making it tougher for them to form a strong counterattack.

Three players for Eastern Michigan are tied for the team lead in aces with 16, including Perinar.

Shondell doesn’t want his team to be overly concerned with Eastern Michigan’s serving, though, as it could take his team out of its game plan.

“I’m confident that we can go out and handle their serves,” Shondell said. “I don’t expect them to run up a ton of aces against us like they have against others because they’re going to run into a great ball control team.”

Shondell has preached ball control to his team all season. By having accurate passes and digging spikes and serves properly, his team is able to get itself in position to succeed on offense.

It’s a crucial element to take on the road where Ball State’s attacks will have to be precise.

“We know how good they are and that it’s going to be a war up there,” Shondell said. “It’s opening night, and they’ll be fired up, but we’ve got to be ready for that.” If the team has been anticipating the start of conference season as much as Seidel has, getting fired up won’t be an issue.