It took five sets to settle it, but Ball State won the battle Saturday night in Akron, defeating the University of Akron 3-2. As fate would have it however, it's not over by a long shot. In defeating the Zips, the Cardinals earned the eight seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Securing the eight seed sets up a showdown between the Cardinals and Zips at 7 p.m. tonight at Worthen Arena.
"We've been living in the do or die mentality for a while. This is what it's all about," coach Dave Boos said. "It was a close match Saturday, so it's good that the scouting report will still be fresh in our minds. We can just adjust to them rather than prepare for a whole new offense."
That familiarity between the two teams could escalate and create even more intensity than the five set battle Saturday.
"We have to be aware that they're going to come out fighting. They know they can play with us," junior libero Alyssa Rio said. "The key will be for us to come out and shut them down early and pick up where we left off in the fifth set."
One adjustment on the defensive side of the ball will be at the net. The Cardinals want to challenge the Zips with better blocking.
"We need to do a better job at blocking," reigning MAC West Offensive Player of the Week Kelsey Brandl said. "If we do, the offense will come."
The do or die attitude that the Cardinals have lived by the last couple weeks has led to success. Ball State has won four of five and appear to be peaking at the right time.
"The team has been playing well and I think we're peaking at the right time," Boos said. "We had two sweeps, two wins on senior nights, and a hard-fought five set win on the road."
Couple in confidence, Boos' belief that his team is peaking and the rest from not having to travel five hours on a bus and Ball State may have the advantage.
"They'll have to be on a bus for five hours like we were Saturday. We'll be more rested and have our fans," Rio said. "It's time to show people what we've got, who we are and what we can be."
One certainty for Ball State will be that this will be the final time at home in the 2009 season. No matter the outcome of the match, the rest of the season will be on the road in Toledo, the site of the MAC Tournament.
"We don't want this to be our last match," Brandl said. "It's going to be exciting."