Ball State tennis to face MAC for Northern Illinois

<p>Senior Andrew Stutz won in straight sets during the match against Eastern Illinois' Jared Woodson on Jan. 22 at Muncie's Northwest YMCA. Stutz won both sets 6-1. <strong>Grace Ramey, DN File</strong></p>

Senior Andrew Stutz won in straight sets during the match against Eastern Illinois' Jared Woodson on Jan. 22 at Muncie's Northwest YMCA. Stutz won both sets 6-1. Grace Ramey, DN File

MAC Standings

1. Western Michigan (3-0 MAC)

T2. Ball State (2-1 MAC) 

T3. Northern Illinois (2-1 MAC)

4. Buffalo (1-1 MAC)

5. Binghamton (0-2 MAC)

6. Toledo (0-3 MAC)

tied 2. Northern Illinois (2-1)

4. Buffalo (1-1)

5. Binghamton (0-2)

6. Toledo (0-3)

Ball State tennis enters its fourth Mid-American Conference match against Northern Illinois, a team it has seen once already this season. However, Ball State head coach Bill Richards said every conference match is important.

“Every week you got to have the mentality that you’re playing for the championship or playing for a spot in the tournament,” Richards said. “It doesn’t really matter who the opponent is. It’s more about going up there and trying to get the job done, whether it’s Northern Illinois or whoever it is.”

Coming into this second match, both Ball State (12-5, 2-1 MAC) and Northern Illinois (12-6, 2-1 MAC) come into the contest tied for second in the MAC standings. After facing the Huskies two weeks ago, junior Marko Guzina didn’t get a win in his singles match, but said he’s looking forward to the competition.

RELATED: Ball State ends first weekend of MAC play on a low note

“I didn’t have the greatest performance that last match,” Guzina said. “It’s certainly a guy that I respect and I certainly know I’m capable of performing better as I had done last season.”

Against the Huskies on March 18, Guzina squared off against No. 2 singles position senior Eric Marbauch. In this match, Guzina lost both matches against Marbauch. For Guzina, he said he enjoys the challenge. 

“I’m all for the competition,” Guzina said. “I think he’s a good player and we'll just see where that takes me. I have done all I can at practice this week and just be mentally prepared for that match.”

Guzina also needs to direct his focus toward Northern Illinois No. 1 doubles match with his partner redshirt junior Collin Rigney. 

“[Guzina and I] have developed pretty good chemistry,” Rigney said. “We started playing together in the back half of the spring break trip. For the most part, we have been playing pretty well.”

One of the reasons why Rigney and Guzina won their doubles match was their serves.

“The biggest part of our game is on our serves,” Rigney said. “We have made sure that we’re continuing to work hard not only on serves but returns and volleys.”

All parts of this tennis match against the Huskies will be important for Ball State. However, Northern Illinois is coming off a 6-1 loss to Western Michigan, while Ball State is coming off a win over MAC for Toledo. 

RELATED: Strong performance in doubles leads to Ball State's win vs. Toledo

“If we had lost that match, it would have been probably impossible to keep chasing Northern Illinois, Buffalo and Western Michigan,” Richards said. “It’s a must-win from that standpoint. It keeps our goals alive for another week and hopefully we can go up to Northern and reverse that result that we had there a couple weeks ago.”

 The re-match against Northern Illinois starts at 2 p.m. March 31 in Rockford, Illinois.

Contact Patrick Murphy with comments at prmurphy2@bsu.edu or on Twitter at @PMURPH505.

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