Coach Nadalie Walsh isn't going to accept mistakes anymore.
After three straight meets where the team has been forced to count falls and fallen itself to an 0-4 record, Ball State is dealing with a new attitude in practice.
"I feel like this week [of practice] has been extremely different than other weeks," Walsh said. "I've just really taken a different approach to try and prepare them mentally."
The new method has involved using consequences for mistakes during practice. Walsh said she wanted to put the mindset that there is a negative effect for missing a routine — instilling the same feelings the gymnasts have during a meet.
Walsh said she has already noticed a change in her team.
"I feel like their attitude is a lot more committed," she said. "I don't think they were being as dedicated as they could have been the last couple weeks. This week was drastically different."
Freshman Aftyn Siemer said the team has come together through the adversity of the season to this point. She said the Cardinals have learned to rely on one another.
"You can't do it by yourself," Siemer said.
The results are starting to look positive for the Cardinals. Hit percentages throughout the week have been up with this tougher approach, Walsh said.
Taking the practice success to competition is another thing. Walsh said Ball State cannot afford to have any more weeks with subpar scores.
"I don't want to waste another meet. I don't feel that this team needs to waste another meet," she said.
In the way of Ball State's first win is Eastern Michigan (1-3, 0-1 Mid-American Conference). Although the Eagles have notched a conference win, they haven't scored above a 189, which the Cardinals have surpassed in all three of their meets.
The two squads met in the regular-season finale last season. In that back-and-forth meet, Ball State edged out Eastern Michigan by 0.025 points for its sole MAC win.
Senior Nikole Viltz will lead Eastern Michigan. She is the only Eagle ranked in the top 15 of the conference in any event — the vault.
Ball State has six gymnasts listed in the conference's top 15 by event.
The Cardinals should have the advantage Saturday, but winning and losing is not the sole barometer for success. Siemer's goal for the meet is simple and to the point.
"I want a step forward from what we've been doing," she said.
The Cardinals will find out at 1 p.m. Saturday if their new way of doing things will lead to higher scores and the first win of the season.
"I have to believe that how we prepared this week is going to make a difference," Walsh said.