The first half of the Mid-American Conference schedule comes to a close Friday and Saturday evening for the Ball State University women's volleyball team (10-9, 3-3). The schedule comes to a close with perhaps the biggest challenge the Cardinals will face all season in the form of Ohio University (14-4, 6-0) who is 24th nationally in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
"We're really excited to see both Kent State and Ohio again," middle blocker Jennifer Boyd said. "Ohio is really good and will be a great challenge for us. We can't wait to take our opportunity to show them what we've got and show the MAC that we're not a team to be taken lightly and a team to be feared."
The weekend will start off at Kent State University (10-10, 3-3), a team that runs a nontraditional and quick attacking offense. The quick attacks and the unique style is a major concern for coach Dave Boos.
"Kent State runs an offense that no one else in the nation runs. You can't prepare for it by playing anyone because no one comes close to it," Boos said. "We've worked on ball handling all week to prepare for this weekend. You can't beat anyone in the MAC if you aren't handling the ball well."
The Bobcats of Ohio play a much more traditional style offense, but are a talented team as evidence in their RPI ranking and their impressive wins over the University of Wisconsin at Wisconsin and Georgia Tech.
Ohio has also fallen to the University of Illinois and Purdue University.
"This is a big weekend for us. We didn't play as well as we would have liked to last year against both Kent State and Ohio," defensive specialist Christie Waters said. "We have a chip on our shoulder as a result. We have a lot [to] prove and want to come out with a lot of passion and fire."
That fire and passion will be needed if the Cardinals want to contend with the Bobcats.
Ohio has dropped only one set in MAC action all year which was to the University at Buffalo, a team Ball State defeated 3-1 last week.
"Buffalo really dominated the first set against Ohio by having excellent ball control and using their service game to their advantage. We'll have to do that, play hard and play well," Boos said. "When we play well, we can play with anyone and we want to prove that this weekend."
A win over the Bobcats would be huge for the Cardinals. Not only would it snap a 15-game MAC win streak by Ohio, it would snap a nine-game losing streak to Ohio under Boos. The win would also propel the Cardinals into the conversation for a MAC championship.
"Thinking about their winning streak makes me want to fight harder and not give up. They ended our season last year and we haven't forgotten it," Waters said. "Any win on the road in the MAC is big, but a win at Ohio is huge and that's what we want to do."
Defensively, the Cardinals have been lead by Kaylee Schembra who has claimed the libero position. In her last outing, Schembra notched her 500th career dig. Boos recognizes that it will take a total team effort to pick crucial MAC wins and it starts with defense.
"We're going to have our hands full this weekend. Ohio has the best player in the MAC so we must side out and handle the ball well," Boos said. "We have the players to make plays and be physical at the net, it's just a matter of putting it together. As long as we play as hard as we can good things will happen."