Cards to face Louisville in NCAAs

With the 2002 Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament titles already secured, the Ball State women's volleyball team is moving on. The Cardinals' season continues Friday when it faces Louisville in the subregional round of the 2002 NCAA Division 1 Women's Volleyball Championship in Columbus, Ohio at 5 p.m.

Head coach Randy Litchfield is very satisfied with where his team was placed in the tournament's field of 64.

"It is a great bracket to compete in," Litchfield said. "It is competitively much easier to avoid getting on an airplane and making a long trip. We're going to be doing what we've been doing all year, and that is to have a three-hour bus ride and then play some volleyball."

Ball State (25-7) earned its seventh trip to the NCAA Tournament last Saturday by defeating Akron in the championship match of the MAC Tournament and therefore receiving the MAC's automatic bid. The Louisville Cardinals advanced to the tournament with an at-large bid because of a 27-5 overall record.

Although Louisville is seen as the favorite in the match, Litchfield feels that his team's underdog status could actually work as an advantage..

"I really believe the NCAA tournament is easier to compete in than the pressure to compete in the MAC tournament, being a No. 1 and hosting," Litchfield, the 2002 MAC Women's Volleyball Coach of the Year, said. "We're supposed to win, and with that, comes some stress. The NCAA is bonus time for us. Now we get to just relax and let it fly."

Ball State plans to draw on its experiences from a tough regular-season schedule that included four top 20 opponents to help them in the tournament.

"We're as battle tested as any team I've coached," Litchfield said. "Not just what we went through in September, but league play challenged us as well. I think that is important to success in NCAA."

Louisville will be led into action on offense by sophomore outside hitter Bing Sun, who leads the squad in kills (484), attacks (1,187) and kills per game (4.36). Sun is one of nine Cardinals 6-feet or taller.

"They are very big and very physical," Litchfield said. "It will be much different than the style we've been seeing with Akron and Eastern Michigan."

To combat Louisville's height advantage, Ball State will rely on its quickness and tenacious defense.

"We've got to be fast," Litchfield said. "That's our element. We have to make a lot of defensive plays and frustrate them by keeping the ball alive. They are going to want to use size and block to end plays quickly."

The winner of the battle of the Cardinals will square off against the winner of Friday's Ohio State vs. Robert Morris match on Saturday night at 7.


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