After finishing non-conference play 9-4, Ball State Volleyball (9-4, 0-0 MAC) heads to Kalamazoo Friday to start the MAC season against Western Michigan (10-4, 0-0 MAC). In 2017, the Broncos ended the Cardinals’ season in a five-set match in the MAC tournament.

“[Western Michigan has] a veteran head coach, and they always play well at home,” head coach Kelli Miller said. “They are a team with high IQ and have a really solid outside hitter, Rachel Bontrager, so we just have to be ready to weather the storm.”

As one of the leading scorers for the Broncos, Bontrager, a sophomore, has 212 kills on the season thus far. As a freshman, Bontrager grabbed double-digit kills in 21 matches and 20+ kills in five. 

Last year, the Cardinals went 11-5 in the Mid-American Conference season. They achieved a five-match win streak leading up to the MAC tournament where they lost in the first round. Junior Sydnee VanBeek had an impressive MAC season performance with 134 kills and a .244 hitting percentage. 

“My volleyball IQ has improved substantially since I was a freshman, as well as my aggressiveness,” VanBeek said. “I’ve had great role models to look up to and who have helped me to become a better player.”

While the Cardinals have gone 9-4 this season, Miller and the team said the season starts over on Friday. That calls for resetting the mindset and refocusing toward the end goal: the MAC tournament. 

“The MAC season is a new season,” Miller said. “What has happened in these first four weeks has no bearing on what happens moving forward, and we have to retrain our minds to understand that this is a whole different competition.”

VanBeek has high hopes for her team and says they are capable of exceeding expectations if they have the right mindset.

“I think we’re capable of whatever we set our minds to,” VanBeek said. “Whether that’s winning the MAC West or coming first in the MAC, I think we are a very strong team and have a lot of veterans to help lead us to success.”

The Cardinals will face the Broncos at 7 p.m. Friday and can be seen on ESPN3. 

Contact Gabi Glass with comments at grglass@bsu.edu or on Twitter @gabiglass.