MAC tournament winners
2016: Ball State
Ball State (20-2, 8-0 MAC) looks to make the most of its home court advantage this weekend by winning its consecutive Mid-American Conference tournament to add to its two MAC regular season championships in a row.
Head coach Max Norris likened last week’s title victory to the perfect movie sequel, saying he wanted his team to be “more 'Godfather II' than 'Caddy Shack II.'" Norris said winning the tournament this week would be out of this world. Or a galaxy far, far away to be precise.
“It would absolutely be 'Return of the Jedi,' which is arguably the best movie out of all those ['Star Wars'] movies and it was the third movie,” he said, “I mean, I liked 'Godfather III' but I wouldn’t put it at 'Jedi' level.”
And Norris went on to compare his team’s situation to the battle the rebels endured in the sci-fi saga.
“You’ve got to have some conflict, you have to have some strife to go through, but I think our players are going to be excited for it, whoever they play against," he said.
The Cardinals are the top seed in the tournament and won the right to host the event after winning the title last year. This means that they only have to win two knockout matches to claim another MAC tournament victory, as opposed to three.
Just one victory this weekend would see the team break their all-time record for winning streaks — Ball State has won 15 consecutive games, tying the record set last season.
In their semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday, Ball State plays the winner of the match between 4-seed Miami (10-11, 5-3 MAC) and 5-seed Northern Illinois (10-12, 4-4 MAC). That match takes place 10 a.m. Friday. Norris expects it to be a “good match." After referencing some statistics, he claimed that the two teams are “so even.”
Whichever team they face, Norris has called upon his “mature, experienced team” to ensure that they don’t let this season’s success get to their heads.
“To assume that we won and we played our best is also not true because I believe there’s room for us to grow,” said Norris.
Earlier in the MAC this season, the Cardinals beat the Huskies 6-1 in Illinois. When Ball State visited Ohio, a dramatic ending saw Peyton Gollhofer snatch her singles match to give the Cardinals a 4-3 victory over the Miami Redhawks. That last-gasp win ultimately set them up to win the MAC regular season championship.
The MAC tournament final will take place noon Sunday. On the other side of the draw, 3-seed Buffalo (11-8, 5-3 MAC) plays 6-seed Western Michigan (10-12, 4-4 MAC) 2 p.m. Friday to decide who will face off against 2-seed Akron (23-3, 7-1 MAC) 2 p.m. Saturday. The winner will claim their place in Sunday’s final against the team who also makes it out alive from the other side of the draw.