First Serve: Ball State will face No. 12 Illinois for the second time this season Friday at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana, Ill., at 5 p.m. (EST) in the first round of the NCAA Tennis Championships. The Cardinals will take a 14-10 overall mark to Champaign, while Illinois enters the match with a 23-7 record. The Fighting Illini made it to the round of 16 at the 2013 NCAA Tournament, losing to No. 1 USC, 4-0.
The Series: Ball State and Illinois have never met in the postseason, despite a 28-year history between the two schools' with the Fighting Illini leading the series record, 19-8. The Cardinals lost their lone meeting against Illinois this season by a score of 4-0 in Indianapolis, Ind., March 23. Illinois has won the last 18 straight meetings over the Cardinals.
Second Serve: If the Cardinals win Friday Ball State will then advance to the second round of the NCAA's and will face either Drake or Memphis Saturday at 3 p.m. Drake is 22-5 overall on the year while Memphis enters the contest with a 14-5 campaign and a No. 22 overall ranking. Ball State did not face either of their schools this season.
Mid-American Conference Tournament Recap: Freshman Lucas Andersen's three-set singles win on court three clinched a 4-3 victory for the third-seeded Ball State men's tennis team over fourth-seed Buffalo April 26 in the championship match of the 2014 Mid-American Conference Tournament at the Cardinal Creek Tennis Center. It was the first time the Cardinals had been to the final match of the MAC Tournament since the 2011 season when Ball State won the title at Western Michigan's Sorenson Courts. At the conclusion of the match, Andersen and senior Austin Smith were named to the MAC Tournament team. Smith was awarded the 2014 Men's Tennis MAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player award.
Postseason Awards: Juniors Ray Leonard and Patrick Elliott, along with freshman Lucas Andersen, of the Ball State men's tennis team earned All-Mid-American Conference First and Second Team accolades, respectively. Leonard was named All-MAC First Team for the third straight season. Elliott and Leonard both garnered All-MAC second team honors for the first time in their careers.
Ball State Head Coach Bill Richards: Richards is in his 42nd season at the helm of the Cardinals, having led the program to 22 MAC titles, including 17 undefeated MAC seasons. Ball State has participated in the MAC for the last 33 years, claiming 38 regular season and or tournament championships. Since the MAC tournament format started in 1997, the Cardinals have won it seven times (1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2014).
About Illinois: The Orange and Blue have won nine of their last 10 matches and have outscored their opponents 43-13 during that stretch. Illinois was awarded the No. 12 overall seed of the NCAA Tournament. The Illini started the year ranked No. 22 before peaking at No. 6 on March 4.
Ticket and Parking Information: Ticket prices for the first and second rounds will be $5 for adults and $3 for students and can be purchased at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex starting one hour prior to the first match each day. One ticket is valid for one admission to all matches on the day the ticket is purchased. Spectator parking is available east of the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex off of Goodwin Ave where fans can then enter the complex from this lot.
Inclement Weather: If inclement weather occurs the matches will be moved to the Fighting Illini Atkins Tennis Center indoor facility.