MEN'S TENNIS: Ball State plays host to Toledo in MAC opener

Cardinals look to continue conference dominance it had just a few seasons ago

Forget the last 19 matches. It is all just preparation at this point.

Come today, the Ball State University men's tennis team will see if all the hours it put in have paid off.

Ball State's Mid-American Conference campaign begins with a match at home against the University of Toledo.

"[Toledo has] played us very close over the last couple of years," coach Bill Richards said. "I think the last three matches have been 4-3. They returned a lot of their team from last year, but haven't gotten the desired results this year. Potentially, they could be a very good team so it will be a tough match."

Conference time symbolizes everything a team has worked for throughout the season; where everything hopefully comes together. It is too late for fundamental improvement. Now, the mental game is the only thing you can control, Richards said.

"You have to be able to deal with matches where consequences of the outcome are bigger," he said. "How ready to play you are is no different. Everyone knows a loss is a bigger loss and a win is a bigger win."

For a young team like the Cardinals, this message will need to get across quickly. With the help of veteran leadership like from junior Eduardo Pavia, the freshman will be ready.

"The conference is the start of a whole new season," said Pavia. "I try and emphasize every match and every point is important. Even if the match is over and you are still playing, you need to try and do well so it can carry over to other matches. Carry over the good and let go of the bad. Fight every point."

Throughout the season, the Cardinals have relied on their young talent, and conference play will be no different. Alexandre Brym and Dalton Albertin have been in the top six since the start of the spring season.

"Four of our six singles players have been here before," said Richards. "It is more critical for [the freshmen] to play within themselves. It is always a little different experience, but I think they will be fine."

Ball State is geared to make a run and prove it is the MAC team to beat. It starts with Toledo, but to make it to the top you have to knock off the top dog.

"Right now we are not the favorite because Western Michigan won last year," said Pavia. "They are the team to beat until someone beats them."

Although a matchup with the Broncos is in the near future, it is important to take things one match at a time.

"Every conference match is for the conference championship," said Richards. "If you lose one match you most likely won't have a chance at the championship. Every match is very crucial."

With that in mind, Pavia is preaching just one thing to his team.

"The key is being consistent for the next three weeks to have a chance," he said.


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