No matter how prepared mentally and physically a team is, performing on the court still defines wins and losses.
The Ball State University men's tennis team faced this reality Friday when it suffered a season-ending loss to Western Michigan University in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals.
After defeating Western Michigan 4-3 on April 10, Ball State lost 4-2 and failed to advance to the championship match against No. 1 seed University at Buffalo.
Despite the Cardinals' win earlier this season, different conditions and matchups forced the team to adjust and it couldn't quite capitalize on opportunities.
An injury to Andres Monroy forced him out of the lineup, so every player moved up one slot in singles. Sophomore Zane Smith also stepped into the sixth slot.
This and other adjustments by Western Michigan led to every Ball State player going up against a different player than they did in the April 10 match.
The recurring theme for Ball State all year has been inconsistency in doubles. Despite solid play Friday, doubles once again turned the match into Western Michigan's favor.
"We put ourselves in a position to win the doubles point, but we lost it," coach Bill Richards said. "It was a big factor in the match and I strongly believe if we would have won the match would have gone our way. It changed [the Broncos'] psyche and once they escaped they gained extra confidence."
Another big key were two losses at the top of the lineup for the Cardinals. Eduardo Pavia and Cliff Morrison lost Friday at No. 1 and No. 2 singles after winning both matches in their first meeting.
"It was very frustrating because things played out just like I wanted we just didn't come away with it [the match]," Richards said. "It was right there for our taking, but it comes down to who comes through in close matches and they did more of that today."
With the loss Ball State has to endure another year stuck on 19 MAC championships. Common belief throughout this year's team was that this was the year.
"We thought we were the best team going in and we didn't perform up to our ability," Dalton Albertin said. "It is a tough feeling and you sit there and think this is another year gone by to win another [championship]."
Richards has certainly been around for several of Ball State's championship teams, but looking back on the recent struggles to get to the top, his outlook remains upbeat.
"There were a lot more positives than negatives this year," said Richards. "The two losses against Buffalo and Western Michigan this year really stick out because they were championship matches and we didn't get it done. The negatives are right there in front you right now, but if you step back and take an objective view there is a lot to feel good about with the guys.
"In terms of results and the future, things look really bright and there will be a lot of great competition for lineup positions this fall."
Looking ahead to the future, there is much to be excited about. Everyone is coming back for the Cardinals and expectations will only grow.
"I am looking forward to working really hard this fall and so is everyone else," Albertin said. "We don't lose anybody so it will be more competitive and we will hopefully have better results next year. I really think we will have a good year next year."