After a quick stop home, it is time for the Ball State women's volleyball team to hit the road again with a couple of matches this weekend when it squares off against Western and Eastern Michigan.
The Cardinals' (14-7 overall, 9-1 Mid-American Conference) weekend begins Friday night against the Broncos of Western Michigan (11-12, 5-5). This will be the first meeting between the two schools this season.
"I think it is a little of a disadvantage that we haven't played them in first half," head coach Randy Litchfield said. "You like to play the young teams early because you know they mature. I'm sure they are thinking the same about us, though."
While Western Michigan has not had the type of season that Ball State has this year, Litchfield sees a lot of similarities between the two schools.
"They have a couple of veterans but are also relying on freshmen," Litchfield said. "They've dealt with the inconsistencies that come with playing young kids. It is the same for us."
In the past, Ball State has struggled in Kalamazoo, Mich., against the Broncos, posting an 11-14 record there. The two split their two meetings last season.
"The last three years have seen Western Michigan become a much better volleyball team," Litchfield said. "They've been one in the MAC that has gotten real good crowd support."
On Saturday, the Cardinals will get to see an opponent that they have already faced this year in the Eagles of Eastern Michigan (19-5, 7-4 MAC). In their first meeting, Ball State won a five game thriller in Muncie 3-2, Oct. 19. Litchfield is ready for a similar situation this weekend in Ypsilanti.
"I go up there expecting nothing else," Litchfield said. "It is the time of year when teams are fighting for seeds and championships. It makes these matches as intense as possible."
Since his team has already played Eastern Michigan once, Litchfield is confident it will know what to expect from the Eagles.
The team has been able to prepare for the Eagles by examining tape from their first meeting as well as other scouting tapes. Litchfield feels that that could be a big help for his team.
"My team has played well when we've had a lot of information and time to absorb it," Litchfield said.
Going into the weekend, senior outside attacker Katie Butts is only 18 digs shy of becoming the third player in Ball State history to record 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. Litchfield is confident that Butts will reach that milestone on this trip.
"Katie getting 18 digs is all but required for us to have a successful weekend," Litchfield said. "I don't see any reason for her to come back home to break it."