Last season, Ball State Women's Tennis started its spring campaign 10-2 only to have its season cut short, and the Cardinals' hopes of challenging for a Mid-American Conference championship and a berth to the NCAA tournament disappeared in the blink of an eye.
After finishing last season on a four-game winning streak before having the season prematurely end, the Cardinals (0-1) started from scratch Sunday, playing their first match since March 5 of 2020 — a 4-3 win against UC Riverside.
Despite returning all of its players and adding four freshmen, Ball State struggled in every match against Louisville, getting swept 7-0 and failing to win a single set for the first time since April 22, 2018, in a conference matchup against Buffalo.
“We've been talking all week about what to expect and I don't think we really took it to heart,” head coach Max Norris said. “Against a team who has talent and is used to playing in the ACC like Louisville, you simply can’t wait around or they’ll take it to you. Those guys took it to us.”
In doubles, sophomores Emma Peeler and Jessica Braun, a duo that had not played together since Feb. 15 of last year, faced off against Louisville’s Andrea Di Palma and Rhea Verma in the first doubles. The two would fall behind quickly 4-0, before winning the next two games, and eventually falling 6-2.
Ball State featured the new duos of sophomore Amy Kaplan and graduate student transfer Martina Bocchi in the second doubles, and junior Livia Lukacs and freshman Mariya Polishchuk in the third doubles. Despite keeping their respective matches close, they too would fall to Louisville’s doubles teams, 6-3 and 6-4 respectively.
“There was some familiarity so we knew something to expect from [Louisville], but people just waited around to see what was happening, as opposed to realizing what was going to happen and just beating them to the punch,” Norris said. “I think there are a lot of things I need to help us be better at, but we definitely did not play as a cohesive unit, that’s for sure.
At singles, five of the players who played in doubles, with the exception of Bocchi, would pull a double-duty for the Cardinals. Graduate student Rebecca Herrington would be the sixth, playing at the fifth singles.
Singles were much of the same as doubles for the Cardinals, with only three sets in singles being decided by two games or less.
It was the third all-time meeting between the two schools, with Louisville winning 5-2 last year and 6-1 the year before.
“[Louisville] is the team we should aim to beat in our program,” Norris said. “That’s problem number one, is that we’re not aiming to beat them, we’re aiming to keep it close or look presentable.”
Despite the 7-0 loss, Norris saw a lot of potential in his team going forward, with the season having just started.
“We're going to get back to work and we've got a lot we have to work on but we're not afraid of what we need to do,” Norris said.
The Cardinals will look to get their first win Friday at the 2-2 University of Notre Dame. The First serve is set for 3:00 p.m.
Contact Evan Weaver with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @evan_weaver7.