This past weekend marked the start of Ball State's spring season as women's tennis traveled to Illinois to face the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, followed by the Illinois State Redbirds on Sunday. 

Ball State fell to Big Ten opponent Northwestern, 6-1. 

“Anytime you play a team like Northwestern, who has made the NCAA tournament 20 plus years in a row, it’s a very elite program and you know you’re in for a tough match,” head coach Max Norris said. 

The lone victory against the Wildcats came from Ball State freshman Victoria Sec, a player who Norris looks to as one of the year's early surprises. 

“You look at someone like Victoria, who had her ups and downs in the fall, found a way to win at Northwestern and also at Illinois State," Norris said. "For her to put two days back to back like she did is really good for her."

Despite its loss on Saturday, Ball State bounced back in a big way on Sunday when it took down Illinois State, 6-1 to finish the weekend with an even record.

“Illinois State is a team that we played last year and they are around the skill level that they were last year,” Norris said. “For us to win by the same score as we did last year, it was a very positive and reaffirming sign, especially for some of our upperclassmen players who are now in leadership roles.”

Leadership will be a key word for the Cardinals' roster this season, something that junior Peyton Gollhoffer has already shown on the court. 

“Peyton did a good job playing number one singles,” Norris said. “It’s never easy playing number one singles and she played Northwestern’s number one player, and she held her own and competed hard.”

With the first road trip behind them, the Cardinals will host their first match of the season Sunday, Jan. 28 when they welcome the Eastern Illinois Panthers. While home advantage always provides a plus as far as emotion and confidence go, Norris doesn’t want to see the team rely on that energy. 

“We’re not the kind of team to be fake rah-rah, even though you can play really well with that mindset," Norris said. "Maybe even at a higher level than normal, but you can also have a lot of lows."

Ball State's match against Eastern Illinois will be a double-header. The first match will be at 1:30 p.m., followed by the second match at 4 p.m. The matches will take place at the Muncie YMCA. 

Contact Chance Iles with comments at cwiles@bsu.edu.