MAC tournament is last chance for senior
It’s now or never for Mindy Marx.
The senior middle blocker for the Ball State women’s volleyball team has made three trips to the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Each time, she’s come back to Muncie feeling the sting of defeat.
Ball State head coach Steve Shondell has said this team, led by an experienced class, is what he’s been building toward for the past four seasons.
“Winning the tournament this year would be amazing,” Marx said. “It’s what we’ve always wanted since we were freshman, and I can’t think of a better way than to go out like that.”
To get there, Ball State will have to go through Western Michigan. Ball State has knocked off Western Michigan twice this season, both times in four sets, most recently Saturday.
In the two previous matchups, Marx has tallied a combined 32 kills, including 19 on Saturday. In those matches, Marx looked faster and reacted quicker than her opponents, giving her an advantage.
She’s noticed it, too, and it’s part of why she likes playing the Broncos so much.
“They’re not the best blocking team, and I’ll use that to my advantage,” Marx said. “They also don’t get up quickly, so if I get up faster, then I can block and tool their kills.”
Tooling, which is when a player jumps and gets a piece of the spike, has caused difficulty for Western Michigan. Against Ball State, attacks rarely make it to the back row without being touched.
As a middle blocker, one of Marx’s main priorities is to make sure attacks are blocked back onto the opponents side, slowed down by deflections or completely redirected either out of bounds or toward a defender.
She’s been effective this season, amassing a combined 99 solo and assisted blocks. Eight of them have come against Western Michigan.
The lack of speed from the Broncos that Marx pointed out isn’t the only reason she likes going up against them.
“They’re my biggest rival,” Marx said. “They’re right by my house and I really don’t like them, and I knew a couple of players because I played against them in high school.”
Lena Oliver, the senior libero for Western Michigan, was one player Marx said stands out.
The rivalry between the two makes sense, as they’ve played against each other since the beginning of high school. After seeing the same person across the court for seven years, she admitted she’s gotten tired of playing against Oliver.
But when Friday night rolls around, Marx will battle her former high school foe and now collegiate competitor Oliver for the final time. The one who wins will have the bragging rights of getting the final victory.
It also will be the only time the pair has faced off against each other in the MAC Tournament. The winner will advance out of the quarterfinals and into the semifinals, the win being just one step out of three to a MAC championship.
And for Marx, getting the elusive MAC championship that’s evaded her for three seasons doesn’t just start with beating Western Michigan.
It’s beating Oliver, too.