Jacqui Seidel, Mindy Marx and Kylee Baker set up a three-person defensive wall against Bowling Green State University’s offense Oct. 25 at Worthen Arena. Bowling Green would take Ball State 3-1. DN PHOTO COREY OHLENKAMP
WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: With tournament approaching, mental changes occur
When the lights turn on in the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, the Ball State women’s volleyball team can’t afford to make mistakes.
Not when one error could make the difference between a Mid-American Conference championship and leaving empty handed.
As the pressure builds, so does the energy that seniors Jacqui Seidel and Kylee Baker play with. Now in their final tournament, the pair said they have plenty of experience and know how to elevate their game when it matters most.
“You’ve got an extra gear and if you don’t, you have to find it somewhere,” Baker said. “This is it and you get a feeling that says ‘OK, it’s time to turn it up one or two notches.’”
Seidel shared the sentiment. The team’s starting setter said there’s an urgency that exists only in the postseason, knowing that if they lose, there’s no walking back onto the court again.
It’s a feeling she said before the season began that she never wants to feel again. Ball State was swept out of the tournament last season by Ohio, an emotional end to an injury-plagued season.
Ball State’s players may have stepped up their intensity against Ohio, but the injuries had already taken their toll.
“We understand that this is our only chance and everybody had to play at a higher level,” Seidel said. “We have to flip the switch and play better than we ever have before.”
There’s extra incentive for Seidel and Baker to win this season, as they will graduate. If they don’t win the MAC championship now, it’ll never happen.
The duo has never competed in the tournament together. Last season, Baker missed the lone game due to a back injury. In 2011, Seidel had torn her ACL in early November and was out for the rest of the season.
This time, they will take the court together. They both understand what’s at stake. Their team is the third seed in the tournament, which is the highest since 2011 when the team entered as the first seed.
“The demeanor changes, everything is a little more serious and driven, focused,” Baker said. “We’ve got one common goal, and everything we’ve worked on so far leads up to this.”
Ball State has played through much of the season smiling during matches, laughing and being lighthearted. It’s helped the Cardinals to a 24-7 overall record and share of the MAC West title.
Although Baker said she expects that to continue, she also anticipates her team will recognize the gravity of the situation and adjust play accordingly.
“For the MAC Tournament, it’s important to be way more serious than a normal match is,” Baker said. “But it’s important to keep that loose control, otherwise, you’ll end up with stage fright.”