For the last year and a half the state of Michigan has been running advertisements supporting tourism in the state. One slogan during this time period was "Lose yourself in Pure Michigan." That's something the Ball State University women's volleyball team (11-14, 4-8) has done all year.
The Cardinals enter the second-to-last weekend of the Mid-American Conference season under .500 overall and in MAC competition and 0-4 on the season against Michigan schools (0-2 against Western Michigan University, 0-1 against Eastern Michigan University, 0-1 against Central Michigan University). The silver lining in a dark cloud that's been hanging over the Cardinals' head is that they have one more chance as both Central and Eastern Michigan come to Worthen Arena.
"Coming off the win at Northern Illinois we will be motivated," coach Dave Boos said. "Our confidence is back and we remember what happened on our road trip to both Central and Eastern Michigan. That road trip also serves as motivation for us."
The road trip to Central and Eastern Michigan was not a pleasant one earlier this year for Ball State. After positioning themselves for a win, the Cardinals were unable to hold off the Chippewa rally and fell in five sets. The following night, Eastern Michigan defeated Ball State in four sets in a described letdown match following the heartbreak from the night before.
"Central was a heartbreaker for us. We had the feeling that we were going to win and it slipped away from us. We try not to think about the Eastern match, but we remember it," sophomore setter Brittany McGinnis said. "We're a lot different team now. We've been working hard on things and a lot has happened since then."
Instead of focusing on what could be and the negatives, the Cardinals have been focusing on a clear cut goal of winning out to reach .500 in the MAC and over .500 overall. The other motivational factor in that goal is to send the seniors out with wins.
"I thought about the end this weekend. It's bittersweet. It's crazy how fast the last four years have gone," senior outside hitter Julie Breivogel said. "All we can do is go out and play our hearts out and fight to the finish. We're ready to win and the schedule is in our favor in the final four matches."
A home court advantage over the two Michigan schools should help the Cardinals, but in their last home stand two weeks ago, they were swept in two disappointing efforts by Bowling Green State University and Miami University.
"We're not looking to count wins. We're trying to get consistent good volleyball and being at home with our support from students, friends and the community will help," Boos said. "The extra day of rest this week will also be a good thing with our array of people needing that extra time."
Ball State takes to the court Friday night at Worthen Arena against Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon against Central Michigan at 1 p.m.
"We're excited to be back home. We're lucky to have the schedule set up the way it is," McGinnis said. "People get tired this time of the year and we get to finish out at home. We're going to take advantage of that."