Ball State was standing just one point away from an undefeated record at the end of the weekend.

A few minutes later, a kill from South Florida’s Kayla Bivins ended the match, leaving Ball State with its first loss of the season.

In the fifth set of a back-and-forth match against South Florida, head coach Steve Shondell’s Cardinals were leading 16-15. After a bad set from senior setter Jacqui Seidel and an attack error from senior Mindy Marx, Bivins finished the job.

“We have four swings for match point, but unfortunately, we couldn’t get a ball on the floor,” Shondell said. “We wanted that final match so bad but couldn’t quite get it.”

The loss dropped Ball State to 2-1 on the weekend. After defeating Austin Peay and Citadel in straight sets, fatigue played a factor in the championship and was a contributing factor in the loss.

Ball State showed a lot of energy in the first two matches, but was unable to bring the same intensity for the championship due to tired legs.

Despite the loss, Shondell said he liked the exertion his team gave in the championship match.

“If they’re giving their best effort, taking a swing, trying to get the best shot and it doesn’t work out, what do you do?” he said. “At least they were giving the effort to try to win.”

The team took to the offensive, as evidenced by the attack error by Marx. Ball State attacked, trying to force South Florida to make an error. 

For the Cardinals, the plan backfired, but Shondell said he was happy the team tried to take the game into its hands and force the issue instead of sitting back and not engaging.

Although Ball State dropped the final match, the two earlier wins provided Shondell with a better look at the team he’ll have this season.

Sophomore Alex Fuelling finished with 43 kills, which paced the team and provided a sign that she could be the replacement for Kara Bates.

The transfer looked strong in her first two matches, but struggled with fatigue against South Florida as her attack percentage was just .146 in the championship.

Ball State had 61 more kills than its opponents over the weekend and in two of the three sets against Austin Peay, Ball State battled back after falling behind to get the win, which Shondell said was a great sign.

“We were one point away from a perfect weekend,” Shondell said. “We just fell one swing short, one kill short.”

After losing a close match where the team was on the edge of victory, a stunning defeat can be difficult for players, feeling like the rug was pulled out from under them.

Shondell said he doesn’t want his players thinking that they blew the match by allowing three straight points.

Instead, they were just one point away.