Junior outside hitter Sabrina Mangapora goes for a low hit at the game against Ohio State on Sept. 17 at John E. Worthen Arena. The women's volleyball team will shift gears as they enter the week with a spot in the eight-team 2016 Mid-American Conference Tournament. Kyle Crawford // DN File
Women's volleyball closes out regular season, prepares for MAC tournament
As Ball State women’s volleyball wraps up the regular season this weekend, the team is directing its focus on the Mid-American Conference tournament. The Cardinals will end the regular season at home, hosting Western Michigan Nov. 11 and Northern Illinois Nov. 12.
This will be Ball State’s second meeting with both teams. The Cardinals (8-6 MAC) pulled out a 3-1 victory against the Broncos, but fell 3-0 to the Huskies back in October.
Head coach Kelli Miller is having her team focus on having a sense of urgency, as they prepare for the tournament.
“One thing that we’re really focusing on for finishing this weekend and taking into conference is having a sense of urgency to maintain that throughout the entire match,” Miller said. “That’s one thing that throughout this year, we’ve been kind of been up and down with. We’re really trying to put a priority on that this week.”
The Cardinals are battling for the fourth seed in the tournament, which allows a bye in tournament play.
In the MAC Tournament, the top two seeds skip the first two rounds and advance directly to the semifinals, while the third and fourth seeds advance to the quarterfinals. The remaining four teams begin in the first round, and would have to play four games in four days if they made a championship run.
Ball State is currently tied with Bowling Green and Toledo for fourth place in the conference with an 8-6 record. In order for the Cardinals to get the four-seed outright, they need to beat both Western Michigan and Northern Illinois, and have Bowling Green and Toledo lose. Otherwise, tiebreakers come into play.
In its last meeting with Northern Illinois, Ball State struggled with passing the ball and control. Miller is looking forward to seeing her team’s progress they’ve made all season when they face the Huskies for the second time.
“When we’re playing Northern, we have to pass a lot better than we did the first time we played them,” Miller said. “From a ball control standpoint, that’s serve, receive and defense, we have to me more relentless in our pursuit. We don’t want any balls hitting the floor without full-on effort.”
Northern Illinois is going to be the Cardinals' biggest competitor this weekend. Miller would like to use this weekend as a warm-up for the conference tournament.
“Knowing that Northern is going to come with a lot of heat behind their serves and being able to battle that,” Miller said. “We don’t want to just accept that as heat, we want to accept that as a challenge. My biggest thing is to see how much we’ve grown from the weekend that we played these guys the first time, till now.”
Both matches this weekend will start at 7 p.m. in Worthen Arena.
“I’m anxious to see how far we’ve grown and to get momentum as we enter the tournament,” Miller said. “We want to play our best volleyball here in these next two weeks.”