Andrew Mishler

Ball State's dominance at Worthen Arena didn't end with the conclusion of the 2010 season.

That was proven this weekend as the Cardinals opened their 2011 season with two victories in the Active Ankle Challenge.

Ball State swept Loyola 3-0 on Friday and beat IPFW 3-1 on Sunday, both in home matches. The wins pushed the Cardinals' home winning streak to 17 matches.

"We wanted to get off to a good start this year like every team does," coach Steve Shondell said following Ball State's win over IPFW. "Today was a little bit of a struggle. The girls hung tough and ended up getting the job done against a team that played really well against us to win IPFW,"

Senior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player by tallying 26 kills combined in Ball State's two matches. She also had four service aces against IPFW.

Sophomore middle blocker Mindy Marx and sophomore libero Catie Fredrich were also named to the All-Tournament team with their strong play in both matches. Marx ended the weekend with 15 kills while Fredrich finished with 20 digs.

Marx and Brandl, Ball State's top middle attackers, carried the Cardinals offensively through their match with the Mastodons. None of Ball State's outside attackers finished with an success rate above .121.

Marx attributed Ball State's offensive production through the middle blockers to their fast style of play.

"They weren't used to our quick transitions," she said. "We just made sure we were up really fast and always ready to hit."

Shondell said he was surprised Ball State's outside hitters were negated so much by IPFW.

"I can't remember having a match where our outsides were such non-factors in most of the match," he said. "[Kylee] Baker finally rose up in the fourth game and got some much needed kills, but it was really different not having anything on the perimeter."

Ball State also had a scare in the second game of the IPFW match, falling behind 25-24. However a service error by the Mastodons tied the match at 25 a point later. Brandl took advantage, later blasting a kill to end the game at 27-25.

"They came awful close to beating us two games to one rather than vice versa," Shondell said. "But winning that second game and coming from behind to win that was really a huge factor in the outcome in the match."

It was the first live action of the season for Fredrich and Kaylee Schembra to play in the backcourt without ex-libero Alyssa Rio.

With a combined 38 digs in both matches, their play was an encouraging sign for Ball State's defense over the course of the season.

Even with occasional struggles over the weekend, Baker said it was great to just play competitive volleyball again.

"It's probably the best feeling in the world. The way we ended last year, it's kind of a bitter feeling. So to get back in the swing of things was so great."