Sophomore Audrey Berger hits a backhand during her match against IUPUI on Feb. 19. The Cardinals (19-2, 7-0 MAC) will compete for the Mid-American Conference title during the match against Akron (23-2, 7-0 MAC) at 1pm on Saturday. Emma Rogers // DN File
PREVIEW: Ball State women’s tennis vs. Akron
The Mid-American Conference regular season title will be decided this Saturday afternoon in Muncie as the top two conference teams face off in the final match of the regular season.
Ball State women's tennis (19-2, 7-0 MAC) entertain Akron (23-2, 7-0 MAC) at 1 p.m. Saturday, and head coach Max Norris is relishing the prospect of a top-tier battle.
“Obviously to be playing another team who’s right at the top of the standings is going to be a good opportunity for us to see how much better we’ve gotten, and it’s going to be a good opportunity for us to serve as a launching pad into the conference tournament as well,” Norris said.
Last 5 matches vs. Akron:
15/16: Won 4-3
14/15: Won 4-3
13/14: Won 6-1
12/13: Lost 4-3
11/12: Lost 0-7
A win this weekend would also parallel the Cardinals’ 15-game win streak set last season.
Akron has never won a MAC regular season championship, but the team won the MAC tournament back-to-back in 2011 and 2012. Norris expects to have a tough fight on their hands, as with every other MAC team this year, he says.
“I think they’ve got a lot of smart players, a lot of savvy players, and I expect that we’re going to need to bring a lot of focus, a lot of intensity and a lot of effort to be able to achieve our goals.”
Ever since Norris took the helm, Ball State has not lost to Akron (although, the last two matches have ended in narrow 4-3 victories over the Zips).
Sophomore Audrey Berger will be coming into the match on a singles losing streak — the first for her all season.
Berger lost her singles match 6-3, 7-5 to Miami’s Hannah Shteyn. Norris said she may have lost the edge which took her on the singles run this season.
This Saturday is also senior day at Ball State, and the Cardinals have three seniors on the roster. One of them is Rosa Calderon. She has mainly occupied the No. 6 singles spot but has also played her fair share of doubles this season.
Norris said Calderon has always been a great teammate.
"She just takes everything in stride,” Norris said. “She’s playing her best tennis of her career, there’s no doubt about that.”
Norris has been impressed with the fight that senior Toni Ormond has shown despite not playing her greatest tennis this year. Ormond would probably admit this too, Norris said.
“Toni’s progressed a lot as a player and progressed a lot as a person," Norris said. "It says a lot about her that we’ve had our ups and downs, but she always handles it interpersonally with me, and she handles everything like an adult and takes the personal responsibility. That goes a long way because the other players on the team see that.”
Senior Carmen Blanco has been voted MAC player of the week a couple of times this year for both singles and doubles, and she has led the team in the top two singles positions throughout MAC play.
“Carmen’s done a great job of, right when she came in, she instantly garnered respect from her teammates. She carries herself with a lot of class off the court,” Norris said.
After the final regular season match up, the Cardinals will begin MAC tournament play on April 28, which will be hosted in Muncie.