Ball State’s Kati Vasalakis probably wasn’t going to fill up the stat sheet against Western Illinois.

Nor would she expect to.

As a defensive specialist, Vasalakis didn’t record a kill or an attempt in the weekend finale and hasn’t had either all season.

That doesn’t mean she wasn’t a key contributor to Ball State’s win against Western Illinois, though. After being inserted into the starting lineup, she helped control the tempo of the game and fueled offense for her team.

“She solidified our ball control game which had been giving us a lot of problems,” head coach Steve Shondell said. “We started her for the first time and her consistency helped get our offense rolling again.”

Vasalakis started the second set against the Leatherbacks, using some of the minutes that would normally be allocated to Nikki Box, who didn’t play against Western Illinois.

Shondell said Box has played more than he would have liked early on, and Vasalakis’s previous experience allows her to be in position to make plays while Box continues to get up to speed with the level of play in college.

Just a sophomore, Vasalakis impressed Shondell with how well she can move the ball to setter senior Jacqui Seidel, an important job for her position.

Defensive specialists are often on the receiving end of spikes. A team is allowed to touch the ball only three times before it crosses the net, so each touch is important.

With the set being the second touch and the spike being the third, it’s Vasalakis’s job to start the offense.

If she plays the ball poorly, it means there could be a bad set, leading to a poor spike and losing the point.

“She was just passing the ball like a laser to the setter against Western Illinois,” Shondell said. “It made all the difference for our team that afternoon.”

Vasalakis received nine serves in the final match, tied for third most on the team. Being an initiator for the offense, she puts pressure on herself to make each pass perfect.

“My main focus is putting the ball where it needs to go, which is something Steve really drives home,” Vasalakis said. “Coming from the Muncie area, ball control is a big deal, so I put a lot of pride in putting the ball where I want it to go.”

Behind her, Ball State put up its best victory during the weekend in the second set against Western Illinois by winning 25-16, in a match Shondell said was the most complete he’s seen this season.

Ball State jumped out to an early 5-1 lead to gain momentum and never looked back. The win kept Ball State above .500, a mark the team hasn’t fallen under this season.

Although the team fell in the previous two matches, Shondell used the win against Western Illinois as an example for why he believes the team is starting to figure out what’s effective and what isn’t.

“This team is learning where to put the ball, which players should be in during what situations,” Shondell said. “Western Illinois showed me how smoothly the offense can run with Vasalakis in there.”

Vasalakis said she thinks there’s more to it than just her.

“We didn’t reach our full potential, and we know that,” she said. “I don’t think I was the difference maker in the group — our team was just having fun out there, and it made a big difference.”