Despite fewer than 72 hours of rest since its last match Saturday, head coach Max Norris never considered fatigue a factor in Ball State’s (6-2, 0-0 MAC) two-match series against Oakland (0-2, 0-0 Horizon) Tuesday and Wednesday. The Cardinals defeated the Golden Grizzlies twice, earning their sixth win of the season and fourth in the last five days.
“It's a blessing we have 10 people that are eligible to play,” Norris said. “We have a huge opportunity to take advantage of our depth. I wasn't all that worried because I don't think there was any player who played all eight possible matches or even seven matches. We were able to sprinkle that and spread our players out across the series.”
The first match of the series saw Oakland take the doubles point in its season opener, despite having to forfeit a match at doubles due to having just five eligible players. The Golden Grizzlies would have had more, but some of their players opted out of the season due to COVID-19.
“What I saw in doubles in the first match gave me zero indication that Oakland was rusty,” Norris said. “Oakland came out really focused at the beginning, and I think they just took what we gave them.”
The Cardinals earned a free point and tied the match before singles had started due to Oakland having to forfeit a singles match on court six. From there, it was all Ball State.
Four Cardinals earned their singles wins in straight sets while freshman Mariya Polishchuk came back from losing the first set 7-5, to winning her second set 6-4 and eventually, the super tiebreaker in the third 10-8. Polishchuk’s victory at No. 2 singles confirmed the 6-1 victory for Ball State.
“[Polischuk], in the first match, was very consistent, made a lot of balls and was just mentally tough,” Norris said. “But when she was down, Masha made some adjustments in the middle of the second set that made a huge difference.”
The second match was a little different for the Cardinals. This time, they took the doubles point and won every singles match to sweep Oakland 7-0.
“I knew going into the second match that we were going to try different things,” Norris said. “We had different lineups with doubles and rested a couple of people who might have normally been in our starting lineup.”
One Cardinal who had some extra playing time this week was freshman Sylvia Martinez. After picking up two singles wins in her season debut at Youngstown State, she picked up two more in her matches against Oakland at No. 5 singles Tuesday and No. 4 singles Wednesday.
“Silvia is a really savvy and smart competitor,” Norris said. “She competes with a lot of passion and still has a lot to learn but a lot of room to grow. The first two matches she played, the moment she stepped out on the court, her energy and her attitude was a big difference in shifting the matches around for us. We're seeing what she's capable of as we go down the stretch for the MAC run.”
The Cardinals continue their season Sunday at 1 p.m., hosting Western Kentucky.