►THE WEEK AHEAD: The Ball State women’s volleyball team opens its 43rd season of play Friday, when it hosts Western Illinois at 8 p.m. on the opening day of the 2014 Ball State Active Ankle Challenge ... The Cardinals conclude the two-day tournament with matches versus Eastern Illinois (11 a.m.) and Northern Colorado (8 p.m.).
►FOLLOW THE ACTION: Ball State Sports Link Radio WCRD 91.3 FM will carry the action live for all three of the Cardinals’ matches this weekend with Rob Connett handling the play-by-play and Andy Wright serving as the color analyst ... Friday’s Ball State match versus Western Illinois will also be streamed live as part of the Ball State All Access package ... Live stats are available for all six tournament matches, while fans can also follow the program on twitter @BallStateWVB.
►CARDINALS ALL-TIME: The Ball State women’s volleyball team enters the weekend with an 826-527-2 (.610) all-time record ... The Cardinals boast an 87-38 (.696) mark under fifth-year head coach Steve Shondell, including a 45-19 (.703) ledger in Mid-American Conference play.
►IN THE MAC: Ball State enters the 2014 season with a 330-165 (.667) all-time record in Mid-American Conference matches, which ranks second among all league schools ... Western Michigan is first with a 345-150 (.697) league mark.
►FROM THE NEST: Ball State recorded an 8-2 record in home matches during the 2013 season, moving its all-time record in Worthen Arena to 224-66 (.772).
►VERSUS ACTIVE ANKLE CHALLENGE FIELD: Ball State holds a 14-7 all-time record versus teams in the 2014 Active Ankle Challenge field ... The Cardinals are 7-3 all-time versus Western Illinois, including a pair of neutral court wins last season ... WIU is 0-2 all-time in Muncie, including a 3-0 loss in its last trip Nov. 6, 1993 ... Ball State also holds a 7-3 series advantage versus Eastern Illinois including a 3-0 victory in the latest meeting Sept. 12, 2009 ... However, EIU has won all three matches it has played in Muncie ... Northern Colorado won the only previous meeting with Ball State, scoring a hard-fought 3-1 win Sept. 8, 2012.
►PRESEASON PROGNOSTICATION: Ball State was selected to finish first in the Mid-American Conference West Division in the league’s annual preseason coaches poll ... The Cardinals received seven of the 12 votes to win the division and was followed by Northern Illinois (four first-place votes), Western Michigan (one first-place vote), Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Toledo ... Ball state also garnered four votes to win the 2014 MAC regular season title and one vote to win the league tournament which runs Nov. 21-24 in Athens, Ohio.
►PRESEASON ALL-MAC WEST DIVISION: Redshirt junior middle hitter Hayley Benson and redshirt junior outside attacker Alex Fuelling were named to the 2014 Preseason All-MAC West Division squad ... Both were All-MAC First Team selections a year ago ... Benson ranked second on the squad and fourth in the conference with a .344 attack percentage in league play last season ... Fuelling ranked first on the squad and fourth in the league with a 3.56 kills-per-set average in conference action in 2013.
● Ball State is 21-21 all-time in season-opening matches, including a 9-8 mark in home openers.
● Ball State has won all four previous season openers under head coach Steve Shondell.
● While the Cardinals lost 19 years of starting experience due to the graduation of five seniors, Ball State returns eight letterwinners from 2013, including a pair of All-MAC First Team honorees in Hayley Benson and Alex Fuelling.
● Hayley Benson is the league’s top returning attacker from last season based on attack percentage. Benson hit .353 in 2013 while averaging 2.50 kills per set.
● After serving as the team’s backup setter, and an emergency outside attacker, for the last two seasons, Jenna Spadafora is projected to take over setting duties in 2014. In the seven matches Spadafora started as setter last season, the Cardinals posted a 7-0 record and a .248 attack percentage.
● Ball State finished the 2013 season with the top-ranked defense in the Mid-American Conference, limiting opponents to a .161 attack percentage. In addition, the Cardinals boasted the second-best offense in the league, hitting for a .242 rate of success.
● Ball State also finished the 2013 campaign ranked seventh nationally with a 14.84 kills-per-set average, while its 16.76 digs-per-set average was 31st among the 328 ranked teams.