Daniel Sipocz

Ball State didn't have anything to play for Saturday and it showed.

The Mid-American Conference championship was clinched. So was the first-round bye in the MAC Tournament. Saturday's match against Akron seemed to mean nothing except another mark in the win or loss column.

Nothing further could have been from the truth.

"It's hard to get that same emotional high coming off the conference championship to start a match that some looked at as meaningless even though we looked at it differently," coach Steve Shondell said. "We weren't there at the beginning."

Akron took advantage of a Ball State team that struggled in their passing game and were making mistakes. The Zips won the first set 25-21. The rest of the night didn't go their way.

Ball State started the second set strong and rolled to win the final home match for five seniors 21-25, 25-18, 25-17, 25-17. Hannah Sullivan, Alyssa Rio, Alexis Shonkwiler, Charde' Phillips and Karin Caudill all were honored following the match.

"It doesn't feel like it's the final match," Sullivan said. "We still have a week of practice here."

Once Ball State settled in and began playing better, the Cardinals took control of the match. A big part of that was the play of Rio. At one point Rio chased down a ball in front of the Ball State bench and sent a free ball over on the run. She also sent a free ball over from her knees seconds after diving to the floor for one of her 29 digs.

The offense responded from big defensive plays made by Rio and her teammates to put the ball away.

"You take a lot of pride in going a season undefeated at home," Rio said. "It's been a rough few years here. Being able to finish on a really high note is something everyone should be proud of."

The win concludes Ball State's regular season with a 10-match win streak and should push the Cardinals closer to the top 30 in the RPI ratings that will be released late Monday afternoon by the NCAA.