WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Road games challenge Ball State
The Daily News
The court is still the same size; there are still six players on each side at all times. Each kill continues to be worth one point, but there’s a clear difference between playing on the road and at home.
Call it the comfort factor.
“You have to travel on a bus for hours, you wind up in a hotel and don’t get to sleep in your own bed,” said Kylee Baker, Ball State outside hitter. “You don’t get those familiar faces in the crowd and you’re playing for a different reason.”
When Ball State hits the road to take on Toledo Thursday, it won’t just be battling a team that’s hungry for its first MAC win of the season.
Going on the road takes players out of their comfort zones. After practicing in the same spot day after day, a new environment can be intimidating.
“You’re playing on a different floor with different colors, every arena seats a different amount of people,” Cardinals head coach Steve Shondell said. “The color of the background, the ball that’s used, the opposing fans, the opposing bands — it all plays into it.”
Players across athletics are creatures of habit who get used to routines. When those are thrown out of balance, sometimes it’s difficult to execute the same way they have at home.
Sophomore Alex Fuelling said the little details can make a large impact, even down to the lighting on the court. Each difference reminds players they’re away from home, where they’re most comfortable.
Sitting at 0-2 in the MAC this season, Toledo will need to use all the home court advantage it possibly can. The team sits at .500 at home this season at 2-2.
Traveling into opposing territory means players have to adapt a different mindset. Facing that pressure can cause even the most mentally sound players to crumble, something that Ball State has avoided doing so far this season.
“You have to put a lot more focus on being calm and controlled,” Baker said. “There has to be extra emphasis on staying composed.”
Staying composed will be a key factor for middle blocker Mindy Marx and defensive specialist Catie Fredrich when going up against Toledo’s star outside hitter Lauren Rafdal.
The senior has racked up 199 kills, which is fourth best in the MAC.
Slowing her down will require a team effort from the Cardinals’ blockers and outside hitters, who’ll be attempting their third straight MAC road win.
In its previous four matches at Toledo, Ball State has emerged victorious; each time by a 3-2 score, showing that Shondell’s team knows how to go into Toledo and knock off its opponent.
With scores that close, there will be no comfort factor Thursday.