Jan. 15 vs. Northern Illinois
Jan. 29 vs. Kentucky
Feb. 12 vs. Central Michigan
March 5 vs. Western Michigan
The gymnastics team has released its schedule for the 2016-17 season. The team will face off against three teams who broke the top 25 NCAA polls last season (Missouri, Kentucky and George Washington).
Head coach Joanna Salem said competing against teams with such a high caliber allows Ball State to gain more experience.
“I think that it is always good to get that exposure ... you want to make sure you are able to go head-to-head with some of those teams you may not see in regular season,” Salem said. “It’s good for them to go out and get that big atmosphere experience. When we come back to our conference it’s very comfortable and they focus more on what they need to do on the competition floor.”
The Cardinals are familiar with competing against Kentucky. The two teams have faced off seven times in the past five seasons. The Cardinals host the Wildcats in January.
Senior Sarah Ebeyer said frequently facing off against Kentucky helps the team prepare for what to expect.
“There are those gymnasts you have seen for the past few years and you know what they are capable of," Ebeyer said. "But every year comes with new challenges. Facing off against them a lot does help us learn their program, but we have to be ready for anything.”
The Cardinals will also be hitting the road more often this season. They will only be in competition at home four times this season. Last season, the Cardinals competed at home seven times, including the Mid-American Conference Championships.
But Salem is not upset about being on the road this season. The team can only utilize three home scores for its regional qualifying scores.
“I think when you get too many home meets, you lose that competitive edge of being able to go out and to do your routine in any environment," Salem said. "Obviously we love having our fans and that support, but preforming at away meets allows us to perfect our routines in any setting.”
In February, the team will head to Ypsilanti, Michigan, to take on Eastern Michigan. The last time the Cardinals faced off against Eastern Michigan, the Eagles won the 2016 MAC Championship.
Ebeyer's older sister, Kimberly, was a gymnast at Eastern Michigan. Ebeyer said while she has more personal connections to Eastern Michigan, she doesn’t look at this meet any different than any other meet.
“There is always going to be rivalry against that school for me," Ebeyer said. "I know a lot of those girls. It’s kind of a friendship rivalry.”
With the pre-season underway, the team has set its sights on taking that extra step to winning the MAC title.
"We’re in it to win it," Ebeyer said. "It doesn’t matter what team it is because every year you start with a blank slate and you’re here building your team.”