WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State veterans propel Ball State against Central Michigan during season
The Daily News
The Ball State women’s volleyball team has relied on its experienced core for its success.
Becoming strong on offense and defense — having solid set after set from senior Jacqui Seidel and sophomore Jenna Spadafora followed by crushing kills from sophomore Alex Fuelling, senior Mindy Marx, senior Kylee Baker and redshirt sophomore Hayley Benson — doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s a process, one that head coach Steve Shondell said he has seen progress over the years and one he saw come out against Central Michigan University on Saturday.
“This team is four years in the making,” Shondell said. “This was a year that we’ve been expecting to have our best team.”
Ball State’s five seniors have combined to appear in more than 400 matches at Worthen and across the country to rack up experience.
The senior class would be hard-pressed to find a situation it hasn’t seen before. They’ve made it to the NCAA Tournament, been eliminated in the Mid-American Conference Tournament’s first round and more. Last season had injuries that haunted a team coming off a 23-6 regular season.
All the adversity has made Shondell’s team battle hardened, which he said is why they’ve played well during critical moments in sets.
At Central Michigan, the Cardinals lead 21-20 in the second set with the Chippewas poised to finish the comeback and tie the match at one.
With Central Michigan faithful on their feet, Ball State scored two straight points before kills from Fuelling and senior Lauren Grant delivered the knockout blow.
Teams with less experience could have folded, but Ball State didn’t.
“They’re going into games and really starting to play like they are the best team,” Shondell said. “It’s early, but this team is moving in the right direction.”
Benson, who was tied for the team lead for kills against Central Michigan, said this team feels different than other squads she’s been on.
It could be added incentive to win this year considering the circumstances. Shondell has prepared for this year since 2010, when the five players were freshmen.
More than anything, the 2013 team seems focused, on a mission to win a MAC Championship and get another birth in the NCAA Tournament. The veterans have been there before and said they understand what it takes to make a postseason run.
“There’s a lot more passion for the game,” Benson said. “It’s a completely different atmosphere, everyone is excited to be here.”
The passion could be a spark plug, propelling the team forward through the ups and downs that come during the season.
It’s nothing they haven’t witnessed before.