Senior Andrew Stutz won in straight sets during the match against Eastern Illinois' Jared Woodson on Jan. 22 at Muncie's Northwest YMCA. Ball State takes on Western Michigan on Friday, March 23 and Toledo on Saturday, March 24. Grace Ramey // DN File
PREVIEW: Ball State men's tennis vs. Western Michigan, Toledo
Ball State men’s tennis begins Mid-American Conference play with matches against Western Michigan and Toledo this weekend after a week off from competition.
Head coach Bill Richards said the extra rest was beneficial for some of his players.
“The nice thing of having that week off was that some guys were able to heal up from some overuse injuries at this time of year,” Richards said. “I think over these weeks the team has had good focus at practices.”
Last year the Cardinals (8-6) dropped both matches against the Broncos, including their first match of the MAC Tournament, but beat the Rockets twice.
“We have played against them a lot from past years, even the freshmen,” Richards said. “There will not be any surprises against both Western and Toledo.”
Richards said the team does not have a blanket game plan against either WMU or Toledo.
“Against a team, we have to have three game plans in doubles, and six individual game plans in singles,” Richards said.
Senior Patrick Downs is on a nine-match winning streak in his singles matches. He said he has been working hard at practices.
“I come into practices with the right mindset,” Downs said. “ You gotta work hard in practice and hopefully it turns into wins.”
Senior Lucas Andersen is 7-4 in his singles matches, all of which were played in the first flight. Andersen said he tries to lead by example.
“I try and keep the guys on track [at practice], because we have a big weekend coming up,” he said.
As the first-flight player, Andersen matches up with the opponent's top player, like Western Michigan's Kennosuke Nouchi (6-5 in first-flight matches) and Toledo's Stjepan Sisko (12-3).
“There are no easy points against players like that, so you just gotta be ready to go from start to finish against this team,” said Andersen.
Both matches will be played in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with Ball State playing Western Michigan at 1 p.m. Friday followed by Saturday's match against Toledo at 1 p.m.