Defending conference champions.

Ball State soccer is off to a 3-0-1 Mid-American Conference record (8-2-2 overall) start in its defense of its MAC regular season title, but on Oct. 6 they'll play Western Michigan, a team that takes exception to Ball State's title claim.

After all, the Broncos are the defending MAC Tournament champions.

MAC West Divison standings:

Ball State (3-0-1)

Northern Illinois (3-1)

Central Michigan (2-1-1)

Western Michigan (2-2)

Toledo (1-2-1)

Eastern Michigan (0-4)

“Western Michigan are going to be a well experienced and seasoned program with a strong tradition of high level performances,” head coach Craig Roberts said. “I think they are going to bring a strong squad, again, to Muncie.”

Western Michigan started the season 6-2 in non-conference play, including a victory against Indiana University. The Broncos are 2-2 in the MAC and will be missing redshirt junior goalkeeper Stephanie Heber, who won't play after getting a red card 15 minutes into their 5-1 loss against Kent State Oct. 2.

“[Playing without Heber] will obviously make things a little more interesting defensively for them," Roberts said. "They’re a very technical team — we have all the respect for technical ability and their style of play. But we feel that we are definitely up for the competitiveness needed to compete with what they bring to the table.”

After the 5 p.m. game against Western Michigan, Ball State will travel to DeKalb, Illinois, to play Northern Illinois Oct. 9.

Northern Illinois had an underwhelming 1-4-2 record in non-conference play but are second in the MAC West — one spot behind Ball State — with a 3-1 conference record that includes a 4-0 shutout against Central Michigan, which is the Chippewas' only loss of the season.

“NIU is a bit of a different team [than Western Michigan],” Roberts said “They’re usually a very strong team, a very physical team with a lot of focus on set pieces. We will have to make sure we are matching up effectively on the set pieces that they do.”

NIU has only scored 10 goals in 11 games, but since starting MAC play the Huskies have scored two goals per game. Roberts said set pieces have bolstered NIU's attack, but feels the Cardinals can adjust to those situations. 

“Sometimes what it comes down to is the ability to adapt and elevate your strengths against other teams' weaknesses," Roberts said. "I think that’s something we bring to the table. We’re a disciplined team, we’re deep, we’re fit and we’re focused on the game plan.”

The Oct. 9 game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.