Sunday was only the second-ever meeting between the Ball State women’s tennis team (1-1) and Purdue (3-0) and the Cardinals dropped the tightly-contested match 4-3.
“We played well at times,” head coach Max Norris said. “Other times we played pretty timid.”
The Cardinals knew they faced a tough task. Going on the road to face a Big 10 team is never easy. But their slow start dug them an even deeper hole.
After handily defeating IUPUI with little resistance on Saturday, the Cardinals had to rise to Purdue’s level, which took some time to get adjusted to.
To start, the doubles teams of Jessica Braun/Emily Desai and Masha Polishchuk/Emma Peeler lost to give the Boilermakers the doubles point. Braun and Desai were right there throughout the bout but lost 4-6. Polishchuk and Peeler lost 1-6.
The singles matches held a common theme with Ball State dropping the first set in all six of the contests. It looked like Purdue was on its way to a potential sweep of the Cardinals, but they turned it around as soon as the second set began.
After a 2-6 first-set loss, Elena Malykh chipped away and took the next two sets 7-5 and 6-2. Annika Planisek won 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 and Masha Polishchuk came back to win after dropping the first set as well. Together, they made up the Cardinals' wins for the day.
“Elena had to embrace a very specific strategy,” Norris said. “She kind of hesitated at first, but then really embraced it and took over.”
Malykh ground out a lot of long points and had to stay consistent the whole way. But styles make fights, and the other wins on the day took on a different type of style.
“Masha and Annika’s win was definitely about being physical, smart and disciplined every point,” Norris said. “Their [Purdue] players were really big hitters, and it took a lot of physical and mental fortitude every point for those two specifically.”
As for the losses the Cardinals suffered in singles, Emma Peeler dropped her match vs Purdue’s Liz Norman 1-6, 1-6.
Amy Kaplan and Jessica Braun both had their own chances to extend their respective matches to a decisive third set but fell short. Kaplan lost a second-set tiebreak, while Braun couldn’t close a 4-1 lead in the second set. It’s just a point here and there that can change the outcome of a match.
“We needed to find a way to win one more set. If we win one more set, the momentum had clearly turned in our favor, but they had such a big lead that we didn’t just put enough pressure on them,” said Norris.
The team will have all of this next week to correct themselves in practice before heading to face a familiar foe in the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday at noon. It’s another chance to test themselves versus a bigger school.
“I do think there’s some confidence that we have right now. Louisville is a team we’ve always played close. That’s not easy to overcome. We definitely have our work cut out for us, and I’m excited for that challenge too.”