All last week there was an aura surrounding Ball State women's volleyball (15-15, 7-9) coach Dave Boos. There was an extra spring in his step and a big smile on his face — a smile that was missing for several weeks.
Winning five of six and four straight will do that for anyone, especially when a four-game high matches the best streak of the season.
"We're playing with the most confidence that we've had all year because we've been playing good volleyball," coach Dave Boos said. "We've played on a higher level defensively and certainly a much higher level offensively."
Having taken care of business Tuesday night in a sweep over the University of Akron, Ball State heads to Toledo with a monster to slay. Ohio University (23-5, 15-1) is the top seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
"We're focused on doing what we need to do to come out with a win," senior Julie Breivogel said. "We're prepared for the biggest match of the year."
Despite not having success against the Bobcats in recent years, the Cardinals have history backing them. Ball State is 28-14 all-time in MAC Tournament action with six championships. Contradicting that success is a 2-3 record at the SeaGate Centre in Toledo.
Earlier this season Ball State traveled to Athens and faced off with Ohio. The result was a hard-fought and close defeat. Ohio won in a sweep, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23 on Oct. 17.
"They are a very experienced and veteran-laden team," Boos said. "They won't go down quietly or easily. We must be the aggressor and maintain that the entire match."
Things have changed since then. The Cardinals have hit their stride defensively. Since then, junior libero Alyssa Rio has stepped up her game in the back court significantly, recently taking Defensive Player of the Week honors for the MAC West. Additionally middle blocker Kelsey Brandl and outside hitters Hannah Sullivan and Julie Breivogel have recently put on great performances with killing the ball.
Brandl was named to the All-MAC First Team on Thursday.
"It's been fun lately because I've had a lot of options as a setter," sophomore setter Brittany McGinnis. "We played with them at their place so we're confident and only have a few adjustments to make."
The offense would not be successful without the help of setter McGinnis. She has also elevated her game in the recent run of wins for the Cardinals. Ball State has seen its attack percentage rise to .208 this season, the first time it has been over the .200 mark since the 2004 season.
"I'm confident in this team's talent and skill," Breivogel said. "We're good enough to win the MAC Championship."
Boos said he hopes this means good things for the Cardinals as they face a stern test in the top seeded Bobcats who continue to hold a top-tier standing in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Entering the weekend, Ohio stands 28th nationally in RPI.
"This is not an unwinnable match," Boos said. "We're very capable of beating Ohio. It won't take a super-human effort to beat them. If there was any time to play them, it's now because of the type of volleyball and our confidence level."