Both teams are on the upswing, but only one will come away with the Mid-American Conference victory Friday night. Ball State (4-7, 2-1 MAC) has the better record, but Northern Illinois
(1-6, 1-4) is coming off its best score of the season — a 192.875, slightly ahead of the Cardinals' 192.75 season high.
But the Cardinals aren't too worried about wins and losses. They just want to take care of themselves and put up another solid performance in Irving Gym.
"I don't think it's a matter of who our opponent is," coach Nadalie Walsh said. "I think it's just them going there and just doing their gymnastics. I don't think they're thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to try to beat Northern Illinois.'"
Junior Brittney Emmons said the team is more worried about accomplishing its goals than what its opponent does. If Ball State performs well, the victory will be a reward, she said.
Last week, Walsh implemented a more individualistic approach in practice, and that attitude persisted through this week.
"Take care of you, [and] the team will take care of itself," Walsh said.
Freshman Aftyn Siemer, coming off a career-high 9.75 on the vault last week, said the team worked on cleaning the details, trying to get as precise a result as possible for the team.
"If we go out there and do our own job, it will all come together," she said. Ball State will trot out its all-around duo of Emmons and Nicole Allen. Since Emmons started competing in the all-around this season,
Emmons has had the top score twice and Allen has led the Cardinals three times.
Emmons said she was also working on small imprecisions from last week.
"I took everything I did this past weekend in both meets. If it was something good, I tried to keep it the same and tried to repeat it about a thousand times," she said. "If something was bad, I tried to work on and fix it."
Northern Illinois is led by senior Holly Reichard, who has sixth first-place performances on the year.
While the Cardinals have been more internally focused, the team counts on each gymnast to perform well.
"Everybody really trusts each other," Walsh said. "There's nobody that's in the lineup where somebody's hoping they're going to make their routine. Everyone knows they can make it."