In the first of 11 games against top-70 ranked opponents, the men's tennis team was defeated by No. 6-ranked Illinois University 5-2, Saturday. Despite being over-shadowed by the loss, senior Jason Pressel pulled off the win of the match.
In his No. 1 singles match against Amer Delic - the ninth-ranked player in the country - Pressel pulled of the upset with a 6-7, 6-4, 7-5 victory.
"It was just an outstanding win," head coach Bill Richards said. "It is extremely encouraging for the rest of the season to see that."
Richards, in his 30th season as the coach of the Cardinals, said the team did what he was looking for - it improved on its last match the week before, when the team struggled to find some kind of rhythm.
"We've been searching for some kind of consistency," Richards said. "We took a big step in achieving that goal."
Nonetheless, the objective Richards said he was not getting over-excited about the team's success.
"I'm always a little cautious so early in the season," he said. "We could go to Indiana and take a step back just as easily."
The Cardinals (2-1) face the Hoosiers today. Indiana is ranked No. 46 in the NCAA, according to last week's polls.
"IU never wants to lose to Ball State in anything," Richards said. "We know they will be ready.
"We have to be ready. We have to have the same attitude and readiness that we had against Illinois."
The Cardinals will not have it easy, as they are still adjusting to the loss of one of the team's veterans, Michael Westerhoff. After the first semester, Westerhoff decided to continue his education in his homeland of South Africa after struggling with grades.
"Losing Michael has been more of a motivating factor for us than anything," Richards said. "I challenged all the young guys that they are going to need to pick up the slack to make up for the loss."
Against Indiana, Richards said he is hoping to do more than just beat a ranked opponent, but impress the NCAA selection committee for the end-of-the-year tournament. As they did against Illinois, Richards said the team can continue to "take a step forward."
"We have to take advantage of the opportunity we have," Richards said. "We gained respect against Illinois, and we just have to go play our best possible game."