WOMEN'S TENNIS: Season's start will help team ignore distractions

New coach, new attitude for Cardinals

With controversy and lawsuits hovering above the Ball State women's tennis program, it could be difficult for first-year coach Christine Bader to be optimistic about the upcoming fall.

Bader inherits a program that is in shambles on and off the court, but college coaches are required to have a positive attitude. With less than a month until the Cardinals' season opener, Bader seems to be taking a good approach.

"I honestly could not be more excited to get this season started," Bader said. "I'm happy to be here at Ball State. The people and the community are great."

Ball State, which has a 1-14 Mid-American Conference record the past two seasons, will begin its season with the Ball State Fall Invitational on Sept. 18. It will be a chance for the Cardinals to focus on tennis instead of the off-field distractions.

Former coach Kathy Bull was relieved of her coaching duties and fired in March after 21 seasons with the program. Her termination came after the NCAA put Bull on a three-year show-cause period, the result of six violations Ball State self-reported against Bull.

Bull has denied the claims and filed a federal lawsuit against Ball State for wrongful termination. Bader and her players were unable to field questions regarding the matter.

With the adversity already hanging over the women's tennis team, Bader is unmoved by the situation.

"I'm excited right now. I'm not even stressed," she said. "I didn't have any problems. I'm just excited to get this season going and excited to watch these girls play tennis."

Unlike the spring season, tournaments and invitationals are focused on individual play during the fall. Spring competition is centered on team play and concludes with the MAC Tournament at season's end.

Though the fall season is not focused around team play, Bader said she wants to see her players improve individually and work their hardest to be prepared for the spring. She said her five-player lineup won't be made until the spring season begins.

After the season opener, Ball State will travel to Michigan State for another invitational. The schedule also includes a trip to Tennessee for the Ohio Valley Regional.

Even with the split of a fall and spring season, Bader said she believes the set up is a good way for her players to improve.

"It's individual [in the fall], but you have to play for a team," she said. "It's a time when girls get to come back and hopefully improved over the summer. We get to see if things are going the right way for spring."