An unsettling feeling washed over the Ball State women's volleyball team last November as it walked off the floor in Toledo. Eighth-seeded Ball State had come up short in upsetting top-seed Ohio in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The Cardinals (14-4, 4-2 MAC) played aggressively, ending their season with a handful of costly mistakes.
"That kind of loss sticks with you," junior setter Brittany McGinnis said. "You remember back to last year and remember how close we were."
The disappointment of the loss to Ohio has been used as motivation this week in practice. Coach Steve Shondell has reminded his team of the loss and what kind of performance it will need to beat Ohio.
Despite the immediate focus on Ohio (12-7, 4-2), Shondell has his eye on the bigger picture.
"This match is as significant as any," he said. "They're all worth the same. A win or loss to Ohio is worth the same as a win or loss to anyone else."
Last week the Bobcats, which have dominated the conference in recent years by winning five MAC titles and six MAC Tournament titles since 2003, proved they were human. The defending conference champions lost to a struggling Miami team (7-12, 2-4) in four sets.
Duplicating Miami's feat won't be easy, but it is possible. Freshman outside hitter Kylee Baker is embracing the opportunity and looks forward to game time.
"Our conference has proven that anyone can beat anyone. The MAC has been full of surprises this year," Baker said. "Beating Ohio would be a major confidence boost and prove that we can be a factor."
McGinnis said the memories of last season would not affect how the team plays, adding that it only serves as motivation.
"We try not to focus on things like that or our record," she said. "We're focusing on playing our game and playing in the moment. If we play clean volleyball we'll be successful."
Clean volleyball is what it will take to beat Ohio, but the defending MAC Champions are not the only opponent for Ball State this weekend. Kent State (10-11, 3-3) visits Worthen Arena on Saturday night.