The Ball State women’s volleyball team clinched the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming Mid-American Conference Tournament with a win over Toledo on Thursday. The Cardinals ended the regular season on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Akron.

With the bye, the Cardinals have an extra day to prepare, as they won’t play until Nov. 22. The first-round of the tournament begins the day before.

But head coach Steve Shondell said the bye makes preparation a little more “interesting.”

“We’re not going to know who we’re going to play until next Friday night,” he said. “We can kind of think about a couple teams, but really knowing who we’re going to play, we won’t know until Friday night.”

The tournament setup will pit Ball State against the winner of No. 5 seed Western Michigan and No. 8 seed Buffalo.

The Cardinals were 3-0 combined against the two teams during the regular season, beating the Broncos twice and the Bulls once.

Prior to the release of the tournament bracket, Shondell said whichever team Ball State draws will be a highly intense match of great volleyball.

“We have a feeling we are going to be playing Western [Michigan] or Eastern [Michigan],” Shondell said. “One of those teams is going to be the No. 5 seed. With that said, you know the matches we’ve had with both of those teams. All five-game matches, incredible matches.”

Ball State opened its conference schedule with a 3-2 win over Western Michigan on Sept. 26 and used the victory as a starting point on its way to an 11-5 overall MAC record.

The Cardinals also defeated the Broncos on Nov. 1.

In the two matches against Western Michigan, redshirt freshman outside hitter Sabrina Mangapora torched the Broncos to the tune of 34 kills and a .401 attack percentage.

Mangapora said close matches like the team has had against Western Michigan will benefit them in the upcoming tournament.

“The last half of the season we played some really close games, and I think that has helped make us tougher,” Mangapora said. “Mentally, physically, we’ve been forced to play longer sets.”

If Ball State is going to win its seventh MAC Tournament title, it will have to rely on its tough attitude to win three matches in as many days.

The Cardinals will put their postseason aspirations on the line when they open play at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 22 in Athens, Ohio.

“It’s to that point in the season where we’ve had experience, and I think that’s what will really help us come MAC Tournament,” Mangapora said.

2014 Mac West Division Standings

Team Conference Overall Pct. Home Away Neutral
Northern Illinois 14-2 21-9 .700 9-3 9-4 3-2
Ball State 11-5 17-12 .586 8-3 6-6 3-3
Western Michigan 9-7 18-13 .581 7-4 7-7 4-2
Eastern Michigan 9-7 18-12 .600 6-4 8-5 4-3
Central Michigan 5-11 10-18 .357 3-8 4-7 3-3
Toledo 0-16 1-28 .034 1-11 0-11 0-6