Women's volleyball team to host Radisson Hotel Classic this weekend

Often times in sports, a team will try to schedule less difficult opponents early on in its schedule in hopes of building confidence and getting a few "easy" wins. Apparently, someone forgot to tell that to the Ball State women's volleyball team this year.

On Saturday, the Cardinals will open up their season against the No. 3 team in the country, USC, at Worthen Arena in the 2002 Radisson Hotel Rogers Classic. The following day, Ball State will face off against Nebraska, who is nationally ranked No. 2 behind only Stanford. Completing the four-team field for the tournament is Pittsburgh.

Ball State head coach Randy Litchfield feels the rankings are modest if anything.

"I'm relatively shocked that Nebraska and Southern Cal are not one and two. I don't know which order, but they are that good," Litchfield said.

Senior outside attacker Katie Butts feels the Cards are ready for their tough matches during the Classic.

"I think our coaches have done a great job preparing us for this weekend," Butts said.

According to Litchfield and Butts, to be competitive with teams such as the Trojans and the Huskers, the Cardinals needs to utilize its speed and play solid defense. He admits that both USC and Nebraska are taller than Ball State and very deep, but does not see that as a reason to give up without a fight.

"Our goal against these teams is that we'll compete. I'd be lying if I said there weren't mismatches. But I've taken teams to competition like this before. If we compete, I'll be happy," Litchfield said.

Butts sees this weekend as an opportunity to find out what kind of team Ball State will be this year and to see what the top competition in the country is like.

"I don't think we are as much intimidated as hoping to learn from them," Butts said, "We have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

This weekend is only the start of a very demanding schedule that includes matches against Texas Tech, UNLV, Cal-Berkeley, North Carolina, Minnesota and Oregon State. Altogether, the Cards' non-conference opponents were 63 matches over .500 last season. Then the Cardinals will enter a realigned MAC West Division that has added 2001 MAC East Division Champion Bowling Green.

"I think this weekend will really prepare us for MAC play," Butts said.

Ball State will also look to continue its current home court win streak which is already at 43 matches, making it the third longest active home winning streak in the country.

"We are very proud of our win streak because we have awesome fans," Butts said.

Northern Iowa currently has the longest streak with 48 consecutive home wins. Nebraska is second with 45. If Ball State defeats USC and Nebraska, they will tie the Huskers for the second longest active streak with a chance to take over soul possession of that spot against Pittsburgh on Monday.