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Chippewas prepare for home showdown with Ball State

Junior outside hitter Kalina Smith passes the ball from oponent Penn State in McGuirk Arena Saturday, Oct. 5.

Fresh off sweeping its third consecutive weekend of games, the Central Michigan volleyball team rolls back into McGuirk Arena for its second of three consecutive home games. 

The Chippewas come in looking for their 10th straight win, this time seeking a victory over the Ball State Cardinals.

The Cardinals come into this matchup at 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference, posting a 9-7 overall record on the year. That record is good enough for second place in the conference, with the lone conference loss coming at the hands of Akron, which is also unbeaten in MAC play. 

"I think they're really talented," said coach Mike Gawlik. "They're pretty balanced, and they share the load offensively."

Ball State earned its fair share of hardware over the past week, as two Cardinals brought home honors. Allison Hamaker won Offensive Player of the Week, while Amber Seaman took Setter of the Week.

Central Michigan was also represented in the weekly honors, as Megan Kern won her third straight Defensive Player of the Week award for the Chippewas. 

Tale of the tape

Statistically, Ball State is well represented among the conference's best. Hamaker is 10th in the conference in kills per game, while freshman Mykel Ivy is 10th in hitting percentage. Seaman is fourth in assists per game, and senior middle blocker Sydnee VanBeek is fifth in blocks per game. 

The Chippewas continue to put up big numbers, as well. Junior Kalina Smith ranks fourth in the conference in points and third in kills per game. Two Chippewas, Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez and Megan Sivertsen, rank in the top 10 in hitting percentage. 

Rosario-Martinez is fourth in service aces, and Kern is fourth in digs as well for Central Michigan.

Another important note for the Chippewas is the health of both Maddie Whitfield and Savannah Thompson. Both have been working back from injuries and should be close to full health for Friday night's matchup.

Ball State relies on the contributions of four freshman starters. Ivy and Hamaker are joined in the starting lineup by freshmen counterparts Natalie Risi and Natalie Mitchem. Rounding out the lineup for the Cardinals are VanBeek and Seaman. 

In what is labeled as an early season battle for conference supremacy, both squads will get a chance to show off their young talent, as they start a combined three seniors. 

Gawlik is aware of the implications, but he will not let the stakes overshadow his original approach. 

"I think it'll be a knockdown drag out," Gawlik said.

He also noted that with all the young talent on both sides, this could be the first of many matchups with important implications between these two squads over the next few years.

The game is also being billed as "Luau Night." The first 100 fans to enter McGurik Arena Friday will receive a free Hawaiian Lei. The matchup is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.