The Ball State men's and women's swimming and diving teams will host the Doug Coers Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
The invitational consists of Marshall (women only), Butler (women only), Valparaiso and NCAA Division II schools Findlay and Grand Valley State.
Both Cardinals coaches talked about the home-pool advantage, citing the routine of Ball State athletes being able to eat and sleep in their regular patterns. A two-day invitational is a grind, and a normal routine combined with fan support could prove to be key as the event wears on.
The Ball State women come into the meet with a considerable amount of momentum. They are undefeated in dual meets and invitationals and are coming off their most dominating performance of the season, a 330-point win at IUPUI's House of Champions invitational.
"This team is one of the best I've ever had, and they're capable, more than any other group, of being really, really successful," women's coach Laura Seibold-Caudill said.
The Cardinals have a deep team, led by senior and reigning Mid-American Conference Swimmer of the Week Katie Bylsma.
The award came from the strength of Bylsma's performance at the House of Champions, where she won the 100- and 200-yard freestyle, placed third in the 50 free and swam the anchor leg of four first-place relays.
"Katie has really stepped up this year. She's just been an incredible leader and individual," Seibold-Caudill said. "She's training incredibly hard and getting faster and faster. She's going to end her season in style."
Youth is also served on the Cardinals' squad as five freshmen – Haley Richter, Mallory Miles, Emily Wisolek, Mia Miller and Bridgette Ruehl – are responsible for 10 of the Cardinals' fastest times this season.
"They know what is expected and are willing to put in the work," Seibold-Caudill said.
The Cardinals will face some stiff competition this weekend though, as the Grand Valley State women's team is No. 1 in Division II, something Seibold-Caudill reiterated to her team after Wednesday's practice.
"They're a tough contender and we need to be prepared," Seibold-Caudill said. "It's not going to be an easy meet and we can't take them lightly."
The men's team is also coming off a win in the House of Champions invitational and is looking to win back-to-back meets after dropping two straight.
The Cardinals will rely on junior Chris Krupa and sophomore Michael Weber, who lead the team in points this season.
Krupa has swum in a variety of events, including the 200 individual medley, the 100 and 200 butterfly, and the 200 breaststroke. He's ranked in the top 10 in the MAC in each of those events.
Coach Bob Thomas talked about the challenge Grand Valley State presents, as they've won the Coers Invitational the past two years and are ranked No. 3 in Division II.
"They're a very strong team and we will have to swim our best to keep up with them," Thomas said. "They're that good."
Grand Valley State coach Andy Boyce is a Ball State alumnus and swam for Thomas.
"Since Andy got there, they've slowly built an outstanding program," Thomas said. "I'm happy for him and it's fun for me to see personally."
Despite the strength of Grand Valley State, Thomas is confident in his team's ability, citing the House of Champions as an example.
"Going in last weekend, we weren't sure if we could top Xavier, but guys really stepped up and we pulled it off," he said.
The schedule of the two-day event, held at Lewellen Pool, is as follows:
Friday, 6 p.m.: 200 freestyle relay, 500 freestyle, 200 IM, 50 freestyle, women's 1-meter diving, men's 3-meter diving, 400 medley relay
Saturday, 9 a.m.: 200 medley relay, 400 IM, 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 breaststroke, 100 backstroke, 800 freestyle relay.
Saturday, 1 p.m.: women's 3-meter diving, men's 1-meter diving
Saturday, 3 p.m.: 1650 freestyle, 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly, 400 freestyle