After a 6-1 win Friday against the Western Michigan Broncos, Ball State Women’s Tennis is looking ready for the post-season and the challenges it will bring.
One of the challenges that comes with playing in the upcoming Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament is that teams are seeing opposing teams for the second, maybe third time in a given year. That means adjustments are going to be made from both teams from match-to-match and no match is going to be the same as the last.
The Broncos (11-7, 2-4 MAC) certainly took that into consideration Friday, as they tweaked their lineups from the last time they played Ball State (16-3, 5-1 MAC) on March 18, which saw the Cardinals sweep them 7-0. Coach Rifanty Kahfiani expected some changes from the Western Michigan side of things, and was ready for it. She had the team reflect on things that worked well for them in the first match, and take that into the second matchup.
“We played at home before, and I basically assigned them to write down match notes,” Kahfiani said. “I think that was helpful to review and be prepared for today.”
All of the doubles matchups saw each pairing playing someone different than the previous match in March. Third-year Masha Polishchuk and fifth-year Allison Mulville fell down 0-3 to start their match, but rattled off six straight games to take court two. Fourth-year’s Jessica Braun and Emily Desai finished off the doubles point by winning a tiebreaker.
Coming back from a deficit was the theme for Polishchuk Friday. After her efforts in her doubles match, she found herself down 1-4 against Western Michigan’s third-year Karin Hamilton. Kahfiani felt as though Polishchuk wasn’t standing close enough to the baseline, and was trying to dictate the match from behind the baseline. They needed a more aggressive strategy. The adjustments that both her and Kahfiani made allowed her to rattle off the next 11 games to take the match by a score of 6-4, 6-0.
“We made an adjustment, and she took off from there,” Kahfiani said. “All of the girls are very coachable, and they listen, and they stick to the plan.”
One of the details Kahfiani has wanted the team to get better at since the Toledo match is their aggressiveness. It’s a work in progress, but it’s starting to pay off in a big way.
Braun won her singles match by a score of 6-3, 6- while Planinsek won 6-4, 6-4. Fourth-year Emma Peeler had been winless since the last time these two teams played, and got back in the win column with a sound 7-5, 6-4 performance on court four. Rounding out the scoring for the Cardinals was Kaplan, who won a third set tiebreaker by a score of 13-11, giving Ball State their sixth point. Second-year Elena Malykh came close to giving the Cardinals a sweep but lost her third set tiebreaker 12-10.
With just four matches left in the regular season, Ball State is sitting comfortably at second place in the conference. Kahfiani says she wants this team to cherish these moments they have together as they get to the most important time of the year, while also getting better every day. She’s using her experience as a player to guide her as a young coach in this sport.
“I want this team to be as connected as possible on the court when they’re playing, and have a great energy from start to finish,” Kahfiani said. “For me when I was playing, the regret was big when I knew I could put more effort and physicality into that match.”
They’ll look to continue to be the aggressor next week, where they’ll host the Bowling Green Falcons Friday, starting at 1 p.m.
Contact Caleb Zuver with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @zuves35.