After looking crisp and energized in its first two matches, Ball State sputtered at times in its finale against South Florida.


Playing in the third match in roughly 24 hours, the Cardinals’ legs grew tired and it reflected in the attack percentages. 


Ball State’s leaders in attack attempts against South Florida were senior Kylee Baker and sophomore Alex Fuelling, with 49 and 48 respectively. However, attack percentages were just .204 and .146 after being significantly higher in previous matches.


Head coach Steve Shondell said he believes the lowered numbers reflect that fatigue was setting in due to the amount of play over the previous 24 hours.


“[Fuelling] led us to a really nice win over Austin Peay on Friday and was the best hitter we could ask for against Citadel,” Shondell said. “Fatigue took its toll on Saturday night, and she wasn’t able to sustain the emotion she had earlier.”


Fuelling led her team in kills over the weekend with 43, but recorded just 16 in the championship, to go along with 10 combined blocking and attacking errors. 


Leading the offense through the first two matches took its toll on the sophomore transfer, who averaged just 3.2 kills per set against South Florida. 


Endurance comes with time and through practice. Players bodies are typically more conditioned as the season progresses, meaning it isn’t uncommon for players to struggle through the first few competitions of the season.


Mental fatigue can play a role in games, too. Ball State led 16-15 in its final set against South Florida, but an attacking error and blocking error opened the doors for South Florida to get its final kill and win.


As players become physically tired, there’s an increased chance for mental errors to occur. Battling in their 11th set since Friday evening, mental fatigue could have caught up to Ball State and played a role in the errors that helped give South Florida the win.


“They gutted it out and competed hard,” Shondell said. “They just didn’t have the energy from the first two matches. It’s hard to come back the next night and have the same amount of gas in the tank.”


As fatigue sets in, players aren’t able to jump as high or strike as hard, decreasing the offensive threat.


For Ball State, improved endurance could come as the season progresses, but it also could involve players learning to choose their battles.


Exerting less energy against weaker opponents to save energy for stronger ones is a strategy used across sports, and could be used by Ball State.


“In some situations, you just have to find a way to win, you basically have to will yourself to victory,” Shondell said. “They gave their best effort and were determined to get the job done, we just fell short.”