WOMENâ€™S VOLLEYBALL: Weekend sweep provides momentum for Ball State
The Daily News
This clearly isn’t last season’s team.
Head coach Steve Shondell’s Cardinals swept the College of Charleston Tournament and extended its winning streak to nine matches, dropping just four sets over that stretch.
The win improved Ball State’s record to 12-3, finishing the non-conference portion of the schedule.
Ball State is seeing contributions across the board, but the seniors’ play has stood out to Shondell.
“We’ve got five seniors who each have played three or four years,” Shondell said. “They’ve got a lot of poise, confidence and experience that’s helping carry this team.”
Ball State cruised past UNC-Asheville and Southern Methodist before outlasting the College of Charleston in four sets.
Leading the charge for Ball State was Mindy Marx. The senior middle blocker led the team with 37 kills over the weekend, sparking an offense that’s been deadly over the winning streak.
The peak for Marx over the weekend was against Southern Methodist, when she recorded 16 kills on just 21 attempts, including a kill to finish off the third set.
“I’ve never seen [Marx] play a better tournament,” Shondell said. “She’s playing the best volleyball of her life and is almost playing at an All-American level for us right now.”
Shondell said he hoped senior outside hitter Kylee Baker would be good to go over the weekend after suffering an injury during practice Tuesday night.
Baker didn’t just play, she participated in every set and was a strong offensive weapon, giving the Cardinals offense 27 kills over 11 sets.
One of those kills was a turning point. Down one point, late in the first set of the championship match, Baker threw down a spike to give to tie at 21. After two Charleston errors and a Baker kill, senior setter Jacqui Seidel finished off the set with another point.
It wasn’t the only big play made by Ball State. Leading 24-23 in the fourth set and with the championship on the line, sophomore Alex Fuelling connected on a spike to finish off Charleston, not giving them a chance to extend the match to five sets.
Fuelling finished with 33 kills for the weekend, continuing to be the reliable offensive threat Ball State needed after Kara Bates graduated left.
Winning close sets has been a difference for Ball State, which struggled in similar situations early this season.
“We were making unforced errors at bad times earlier in the season, and we’ve learned from that,” Shondell said. “[We’re] doing a better job of making our opponents earn their points instead of just giving them the points.”
Even defensive minded players managed to get in on the scoring over the weekend. Seidel, who has admitted that she’s more concentrated on defense and setting the ball, obtained five kills to go along with her 90 assists.
The weekend sweep comes at an ideal time for Ball State. The team begins its conference schedule Friday.