►LET THE GAMES BEGIN: The Ball State women's volleyball team opens its 41st season of play Friday, when it hosts Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m. in the 2012 Ball State Active Ankle Challenge ... On Saturday, the Cardinals conclude the two-day event with matches versus VCU (11 a.m.) and Illinois State (7 p.m.).
►FOLLOW THE ACTION: For the third consecutive season, Ball State All-Access (subscriptions starting as low as $9.95 a month) will feature live streaming video for all of BSU's women's volleyball home matches this season ... In addition, Ball State Sports Link Radio 91.3 WCRD will broadcast all of BSU's home matches and select road contests for FREE online at BallStateSports.com ... Live stats will also be available for all of BSU's home matches.
►CARDINALS ALL-TIME: Ball State enters its 41st season of competition with a 788-502-2 (.611) all-time record ... The Cardinals are 19-21 all-time in season-opening matches, including an 8-8 record in opening matches played at home ... Last season, the Cardinals opened the year with a 3-0 win over Loyola-Chicago in the BSU Active Ankle Challenge, and went on to win their first nine matches on the way to a 25-8 (12-4 MAC) record ... BSU boasts a 49-13 (.790) mark under third-year head coach Steve Shondell.
►FROM THE NEST: The Aug. 28, 2011 win over IPFW in the championship match of the Ball State Active Ankle Challenge was the 200th victory for the Cardinals in Worthen Arena ... BSU owns a 208-57 (.785) all-time record in matches played in Worthen Arena, including a 157-31 (.835) mark versus Mid-American Conference teams ... BSU posted a 10-1 record at home in 2011.
►BALL STATE VS. TOURNAMENT FIELD: Ball State is a combined 4-9 versus the 2012 Ball State Active Ankle Challenge field, with all but one of the matches being played versus Illinois State ... The Redbirds hold a 3-9 lead in the all-time series, including six consecutive wins ... The teams have not played since a 3-0 ISU victory on Sept. 9, 2007 ... Ball State holds a 1-0 edge in the series versus VCU, with the Cardinals picking up a 3-1 win over the Rams last season at the MSU Spartan Invitational (Sept. 17) ... Ball State and Gardner-Webb will meeting for the first time in women's volleyball.
►IN THE PRESEASON POLLS: The Ball State women's volleyball team was picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference West Division in the annual preseason poll ... Western Michigan was chosen first and garnered 10 first place votes, followed by BSU and Central Michigan with one first place vote each ... Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan and Toledo rounded out the division.
►SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: Ball State returns nine letterwinners, including three starters and the libero, from last season's team which posted a 25-8 (12-4 MAC) record and advanced to the first round of the NCAA tournament ... Highlighting BSU's list of returning student-athletes are a pair of All-MAC First Team honorees in senior outside hitter Kara Bates and junior defensive specialist Catie Fredrich.
►SCOUTING THE RUNNIN' BULLDOGS: Gardner-Webb returns eight letterwinners, including four starters, from last season's team which posted a 10-20 (5-9 Big South) record ... GWU, which has nine newcomers on the roster, was picked to finish ninth in the Big South Conference preseason poll.
►SCOUTING THE RAMS: VCU returns seven letterwinners, including four starters, from last season's squad which posted a 17-17 (8-6 CAA) record ... The Rams, who moved to the Atlantic 10 Conference this season, were picked to finish sixth in the A10 preseason poll.
►SCOUTING THE REDBIRDS: Illinois State returns 11 letterwinners, including five starters, from last season's team which posted an 18-14 (9-9 MVC) record ... The Redbirds were picked to finish fifth in the MVC preseason poll.
►FOR THE RECORD: Ball State's 25-8 overall record in 2011 was the 32nd-best record in the nation among the 327 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball programs ... BSU's 25 wins to end the season tied as the 19th-best win total in the nation this season, with Northern Iowa leading both categories at 33-2.
►IN THE MAC: With a 3-1 victory at Ohio (Oct. 14, 2011), Ball State became just the second women's volleyball program in league history to collect 300 Mid-American Conference victories ... BSU ended the 2011 MAC season with a 306-149 (.673) all-time record in conference matches ... BSU's record is the second-best in league history, trailing only Western Michigan's 317-138 (.697) all-time league mark.
►MORE ON THE MAC - WEST VS. EAST: Ball State went 6-0 versus teams from the MAC East Division in 2011 ... Including MAC Tournament play, the MAC West Division held a 32-6 advantage in interdivisional play last season, with only Ohio (3), Bowling Green (1), Kent State (1) and Miami (1) picking up wins out of their division ... Overall, the West Division had a 103-33 set record versus the East Division, including 21 sweeps in 38 matches played.
►THE MAC IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT & RPI: The Mid-American Conference sent a league-record four teams to the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship with Ball State (at-large), Central Michigan (tournament champion), Northern Illinois (at-large) and Western Michigan (at-large) all advancing from the league's West Division ... The 2011 MAC West Division featured five teams in the RPI Top 80, which was the most of any conference division (among conferences with divisions) in the country: NIU (17), BSU (36), WMU (39), Eastern Michigan (70) and CMU (79).
►BEST OF THE BEST: The Ball State women's volleyball team led the MAC with a school-record four First Team All-MAC selections ... Named to the squad were seniors Jennifer Boyd and Kelsey Brandl, junior Kara Bates and sophomore Catie Fredrich.
►ACCOLADES ALREADY ROLLING IN: Kara Bates is already pulling in the honors before the season even begins, as she was named to the 2012 West Division Preseason All-Mid-American Conference Team.
►MORE ON BATES: Kara Bates made a name for herself in her first season at Ball State, leading the team with a 3.20 kill-per-set average and tying for team-high honors with double-digit kills in 18 matches ... She posted a BSU career-high 20 kills at Western Michigan (Nov. 4), while also adding a career-best seven total blocks in the contest ... She scored five kill/dig double-double on the year, including three of the last six matches.
►FREDRICH ON D: A four-time MAC West Division Defensive Player of the Week selection in 2011, Catie Fredrich racked up double-digit digs in each of BSU's final 32 matches last season ... She recorded a career-high 31 digs in two matches (at EMU, Oct. 8 and vs. Miami, Oct. 21), while adding 30 digs in BSU's home win over Western Michigan (Oct. 1) ... She led the Cardinals in digs in 29 of the last 30 matches, while earning match-high honors in 21 of the contests.
►DIGGING DEEP: Catie Fredrich enters Friday's match with 819 career digs and needs just 39 more to move into the top 20 in program history ... She collected 562 digs in 2011 which is the ninth-best single season dig total in program history ... Her 42 career matches with double-figure digs rank 16th in program history, while her nine career matches with 20-or-more digs is sixth.