Women’s tennis head coach Max Norris could not contain his excitement after Ball State's (2-2) 4-3 victory over Middle Tennessee State (2-5).
“I had to restrain myself a little because I was coaching near the end in a real tight situation,” Norris said. “In those moments, you kind of have to tamper down your emotion, so you don't get too emotional, so I'll definitely celebrate tonight, but I'm very happy.”
After a two-week hiatus, Ball State stepped onto the court again, looking to bring its record to .500 after losing its first two matches of the season.
The doubles matches featured two teams the Cardinals had used this season before, with sophomores Emma Peeler and Jessica Braun and junior Livia Lukacs and graduate student Rebecca Herrington. The third team was the new pairing of freshman Mariya Polishchuk and sophomore Emily Desai.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the change in doubles did not change the outcome that has occurred more often than not for them, with the teams of Peeler and Braun and Polishchuk and Desai both losing their matches 6-2. The match at no. 2 doubles featuring Lukacs and Herrington never finished.
“[After doubles], I said our attitude [and focus] was not acceptable,” Norris said. “We appeared to hope other people would play well so that we could relax and play well ourselves. I told them, ‘It's not someone else's responsibility to play good, so you can play good, and you have to take that upon yourself.’”
The pep talk from Norris worked, as the Cardinals fought back in singles after losing the doubles point for the third time this season.
Braun (6-3, 6-0) and Lukacs (6-4, 6-1) made short work of their opponents, winning in straight sets at no. 3 and no. 6 singles, respectively, put the Cardinals up 2-1 over the Blue Raiders early.
“We had a pretty good start across all six courts,” Norris said. Then about midway through the first sets, they kind of made their stand. I definitely surmised, from what I could hear from the cheering, that we were competitive and/or winning on the back two. So I was just trying to look for opportunities to find two more points.”
Herrington was the next Cardinal to add to the lead, winning at no. 5 singles in three sets (6-1, 5-7, 6-4) over the Blue Raiders’ sophomore Love-Star Alexis to put Ball State one match away from the victory.
That was when Middle Tennessee State started fighting back themselves.
At no. 2 singles, Polishchuk lost in straight sets (6-7, 2-6) to Middle Tennessee’s Lydia Burrows to cut the Cardinals lead to 3-2, while Peeler and senior Lee Barnard of the Blue Raiders battled it out in the third set at no. 1 singles.
Peeler had won the first set of her match 6-1 before dropping the second 6-3, leading to her 7-6 victory in the decisive third set against Lee Barnard, a player she had lost to the year before.
“I was just incredibly proud of her,” Norris said. She was down 1-4 and then 3-5 in the third set, and at that point, it was 5-5. I could see that her opponent had lost her composure, and I knew Emma had a very good chance to win the match. Then for her to close out the tiebreaker with all of her teammates watching, the other team watching, and Amy's match going on, it was just so incredible to see her poise and her execution.”
Sophomore Amy Kaplan lost the final match of the day at no. 4 singles in three sets (0-6, 6-3, 5-7) to officially make the final score 4-3 in favor of Ball State, though it did not determine the outcome of the match.
“[The break] allowed us to really work on things that we weren't doing as well in the Louisville and Notre Dame match, but that did help us locate some areas of improvement,” Norris said.
The Cardinals go into the week with some momentum on their side, having won two matches in a row heading into next Saturday’s doubleheader with Youngstown State. First serve is set for 11 a.m. in the first match, followed by 3:00 p.m. in the second match.