Ball State men’s tennis starts season with high hopes of winning MAC

<p>Senior Lucas Andersen wins 7-5, 6-1 against No. 1 Eastern Illinois freshman Freddie O'Brien during the match at Muncie's Northwest YMCA on Jan. 22. <strong>Grace Ramey, DN File</strong></p>

Senior Lucas Andersen wins 7-5, 6-1 against No. 1 Eastern Illinois freshman Freddie O'Brien during the match at Muncie's Northwest YMCA on Jan. 22. Grace Ramey, DN File

Over the last five weeks, Ball State men’s tennis has been practicing by itself. The team had two weeks before the end of the winter semester and three weeks over break. Last Monday was the team’s first week of practices, before facing Indiana for the season-opener.

Coming into this season, head coach Bill Richards and his team have high hopes. He said his goals are very simple.

“We want to use this pre-conference season and try to get ready for the Mid-American Conference,” Richards said. “Most of our goals are built around the MAC regular season and tournament. Our ultimate goal is to win the regular season, the tournament and get to the NCAA tournament. It’s what we’re working towards right now.”

To reach its goals for the season, Ball State will need help from every member on the team.

“It’s going to take a total team effort to reach our goals this year,” Richards said. “The returning players from last year, they’re all going to have to step up and move higher in the lineup. Hopefully, improve from a year ago. That’s really what our program is built on is player improvement and we hope we see some progress from year-to-year from each of those guys.”

To win the MAC tournament, the team has to go through the MAC field to accomplish goal number one.

At the last fall tournament, the team faced off against MAC teams at Western Michigan. 

“You look at the two top teams from last year, Buffalo and Western Michigan,” Richards said. “Neither one of those teams lost many players from last year. We’re going to have to work hard and show a lot of improvement to catch up to those teams that finished ahead of us last year.”

Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Buffalo finished ahead of Ball State last season. The Cardinals will get to face the defending champions on April 22. But before then, the team will face teams in its nonconference schedule.

Before the team begins to face MAC opponents on March 17, they will face six in-state opponents. One of those opponents is Big-Ten foe Indiana.

“We always look forward to playing a Big-Ten team and try to play as tough of a schedule as possible,” Richards said. “It’s obviously a difficult way to start against a very strong team on the road, but it will be a great challenge and we’re looking forward to see how we stack up.”

But the team isn’t just focusing on just MAC teams and in-state teams, but every match of the season. Sophomore Luke Wiese said every match is important.

“Obviously, our conference is tough,” Wiese said. “There’s not a single team to beat. You think, ‘Oh! There’s an easy win’ or anything like that. I think that every match, you need the same approach of one match at a time. This is a long season. It’s just now January and we’ll be going for a while.”

The season starts today at 1 p.m. against Indiana.

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