Ball State (2-1) was ready to go from the first serve in its victory over Louisville Jan. 28.
Ball State dominated the doubles matches. Third-year Masha Polishchuk and fourth-year Jessica Braun got singles action started, winning each of their singles matches 6-3, 6-1. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead. But if they wanted to win, they were going to have to earn it.
Coming in, Louisville (2-1) was 4-0 vs Ball State all-time. Last year, Louisville got by Ball State by a score of 4-3. And on Saturday, up 3-0, it looked like it wasn’t going to be a matter of if they would avenge their loss from last year, but by how much they would do it.
“We were really excited. We knew that if we didn’t come out with energy, we were gonna let them [Louisville] have a chance to beat us,” head coach Max Norris said. “The biggest thing we talked about all week was if they (Louisville) get up forty-love, they’re not going to quit.”
It proved to be true. Louisville was never out of it, and momentum started to shift after Cici Xin of Louisville defeated first-year Annika Planisek 6-3, 7-6 in the fifth singles.
In first singles, fourth-year Emma Peeler dropped her first set but battled back to send the match to a third set. But Andrea DiPalma proved to be too much. Peeler lost 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“When they held onto that five singles match, and when they won at one singles I think they [Louisville] really started to feel like they could do this even though they were behind most of the day,” Norris said.
Only needing one more win with two matches left, Ball State’s backs were up against the wall. On the road, playing indoors against a team they’ve never beaten before in the program’s history, it seemed as though they had lost all momentum.
And then there was fourth-year Amy Kaplan in the third singles slot.
She lost her first set 3-6 to Jamiliah Snells of Louisville, but then battled back to tie it in the second set, winning it 6-4.
She carried the momentum of the second set to jump out to a 3-0 lead in the third, and again, it looked like Ball State was going to close it out.
But Snells had a punch left in her and tied it up at three after breaking Kaplan’s serve. As everyone descended on the court to watch the match unfold, the pressure mounted.
“You gotta be composed because a misstep here or a misstep there, you’re going to give her [Snell] free points,” Norris said.
When it got back to Kaplan’s serve with the score tied at three, she had to bear down and bring the momentum back.
“Her serve games at the end were very good,” said Norris about Kaplan’s performance. “She got up 3-0, she completely lost focus and lost three straight games, and then focused back in on her serve the game and that was really big.”
It was enough for her to go on and win the fourth set 6-4, and give Ball State the win.
This score will go out into the tennis world, and some might be shocked that Ball State was finally able to get over the hump and beat Louisville. But they expected this. And it doesn’t tap into newfound confidence, it adds to what they already have going.
“It wasn’t that we needed this win to give us confidence. We had the confidence and the belief that we were going to compete whether we won or we lost,” Norris said. “We knew that we were going to be undeterred in our competitiveness.”
The Cardinals are back in action on Friday at home versus James Madison, starting at 1:30 P.M.
Contact Caleb Zuver with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @zuves35.