Friday’s outcome between Ball States Women’s Tennis (7-2, 0-0 MAC) and Northern Kentucky (3-3, 0-0 Horizon) was never in doubt, as the Cardinals were able to take the doubles point and ride to the tune of a 6-1 win over the Norse.
“We have respect for Northern Kentucky. They beat Western Kentucky earlier in the season who we had a good battle with, so we knew they had some good players,” head coach Max Norris said. “We did a good job of really starting off strong to let them know it was going to be very hard if they wanted to beat us.”
The win put the Cardinals back on track after a 6-1 loss to Indiana last week. They have now won six out of their last matches with their only other loss this season coming at the hands of Louisville.
In doubles, the first two matches ended quickly, both resulting in 6-0 sweeps. The first doubles match saw senior Rebecca Herrington and freshman Jessica Braun swe the Northern Kentucky duo of Hannah Watton and Katja Dijanezevic.
“Becca and I came out really strong in doubles, and we are implementing a lot of stuff we’ve been working on the past couple of weeks,” Braun said. “She’s a great senior leader, and it’s helped me build my confidence.”
In their doubles match, Herrington and Braun improved to 5-0 when working as a team this season. Before their win at Indiana last week, the two had not given up more than three games all year.
“It’s funny,” Norris said. “They played Indiana and were down 4-1. They were really close to a couple of strategic things that were working and couldn’t quite get it, but as soon as a couple of them started to work, they had a ton of belief because both of them are so smart."
Both Braun and Herrington agreed their playing styles are similar to each other and mesh well together.
“We both like to hit forehands from the baseline and approach to attack our opponents more,” Herrington said. “Both of us can vary our shots like rolling or driving, and it’s good because it helps to make our team more dynamic.”
With Herrington being a senior and Braun a junior, Norris said Herrington acts as a teacher for younger players.
“Rebecca is no frills, no drama,” Norris said. “She just tries to do a job, and I think to someone like Jessica or Emily, who’s still learning the ropes, it’s very comforting.”
Herrington has embraced the role of being a role model and leader for her teammates.
“When I came up, there were always at least four girls older than me, so I definitely learned from them,” Herrington said. “I learned what to do and how to approach someone younger than me to help them become a better player and person.”
When junior Victoria Sec and freshman Amy Kaplan were swept on court two, it came down to the team of sophomore Livia Lukacs and freshman Emma Peeler to break the deadlock.
“What I saw during the doubles match on court one was that maybe Emma and Livia lost a little focus,” Norris said. “They got up 2-0, and you see it all the time in doubles points where you look around and think the point might come down to me. I think that happened for about five minutes in their match, and then they started to focus, and plus, they won to no-advantage points to ultimately win 6-4, so I think that was a great experience."
In singles, every player for Ball State besides Braun won in straight sets, none giving up more than two games in a set. Braun lost in three sets with a tiebreak (6-2, 1-6, 6-10).
“I started off strong and thought I was doing a really good job holding my ground until she raised her game in the second set,” Braun said. “If I could play that match again, I would do better, and I learned a lot from this match that I can use moving forward.”
The straight-set victories for the rest of the singles players made for a quick finish while on short rest.
“I scheduled tomorrow’s match on purpose,” Norris said. “I knew there’d be a little bit of short rest, but the same thing happens if you want to win a MAC Championship.”
Ball State will be seeking another win when it hosts Murray State Saturday at 2 p.m.
“The quick match tonight was beneficial for them focus-wise,” Norris said. “It’s 8:40 p.m. now, so hopefully in an hour or less, they’ll be close and get a lot of good sleep for tomorrow.”