Ball State looks to get a step ahead of the pack in the Mid-American Conference West division when it plays Toledo and Akron on Thursday and Saturday.

The Cardinals come in sitting in a tie for first place in the division with Western Michigan at 7-5 in conference play, while Toledo sits right at the doorstep at 6-6.

The weekend slate provides Ball State with a chance to keep itself in the running for a division title as Western Michigan faces division bottom feeders Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan.

Last time out against the Rockets, the Cardinals offense sputtered in a straight-set loss. Toledo took advantage of Ball State’s 28 errors in the match and senior outside hitter Saige Thomas recorded 15 kills to power the Toledo offense.

“Unforced errors just kill you no matter who you’re playing,” Ball State head coach Kelli Miller said. “When you’re playing a team like Toledo, who typically doesn’t make a lot of errors, and you’re just giving them point after point it just takes all the pressure off of them.”

Consistency has been a problem for both Ball State and Toledo in recent weeks, as both teams have struggled to put win streaks together. Both squads are 3-3 in their last six games.

Thursday’s match against Toledo will also be Ball State’s final match of the season at Worthen Arena.

“I definitely think it’s something that you do think about,” Miller said. “You’ve spent a ton of time in your gymnasium, a ton of time on that floor but at the same time there’s still three more matches to plus the MAC Tournament, so I think there’s a little bit of emotion to [seniors playing their last home game], but at the same time we’re still going to be practicing for another week here and there’s still a lot more things to be had.” 

Last weekend against Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan, Ball State senior opposite hitter Jessica Lindsey recorded career highs both nights with 12 and 14, and converted 13 of 15 service attempts.

“It’s special for me [to have such good performances on senior weekend],” Lindsey said. “If my performance betters us and helps us win, I’m happy to do that.”

On Saturday, Ball State will make the long trip to take on the Akron Zips, who currently sit at last place in the MAC.

The match against Akron is placed between contests with Toledo and Northern Illinois, both of whom are just trailing Ball State in the conference standings. With that said, Miller knows it will be important for her team to stay focused against the Zips, who have lost nine straight matches.

“We’ve learned so many lessons here in the past couple weeks that no matter who you’re playing, no matter what their record is, anybody can beat anybody any night in the MAC right now,” Miller said. “So, you have to stay focused every single match and you can’t be looking ahead to the MAC Tournament or Northern Illinois, you must put your sole focus on being your best that night and that’s going to be the challenge at Akron.”

Thursday’s match begins at 7 p.m. in Worthen Arena, while Saturday’s first serve is at 5 p.m. at Akron.

Contact Sam Barloga with comments at sabarloga@bsu.edu.