WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Win propels Ball State into first in MAC
With one swift swing of her arm, Mackenzie Kitchel ended Ohio University’s time at number one in the conference.
Ball State’s five-set win at Ohio wasn’t just a road win for head coach Steve Shondell and his women’s volleyball team. It vaulted his team to 19-4, the best mark in the conference.
Ohio was 5-1 at home going into the match, with its only loss being a five-set decision to the University of North Carolina, who was ranked No. 24 in the country at the time.
“We’re trying to go from good to great and that means winning on the road,” Shondell said. “We fought back from a devastating fourth game where we were just run off the court.”
The fourth set against Ohio was one of the worst Ball State has played all season. The team fell behind 20-6 with a multitude of attack errors leading the way. They lost the set 25-13.
They rebounded by winning the fifth set 15-10, with Kitchel getting the final kill. She finished with 14, second highest on the team.
The players appear to have received Shondell’s message to win on the road. The Cardinals went 2-0 this weekend against the Golden Flashes and Bobcats, both on the road. The team is 4-1 while on the road against the Mid-American Conference.
Against Ohio, Shondell said he wanted to attack Abby Gilleland, one of the most offensive setters in the MAC. She had 23 attacks during the game, but finished with just seven kills.
She was just one of the many offensive options Ohio has. Shondell said the final key to his game plan was for his team to play the best defense they have all season.
“If we’re not digging balls and a step slow defense like we were against Kent State, you’re not going to beat Ohio,” Shondell said. “We were fortunate to just pull out 15 points in game five.”
Ball State’s defense did its job, holding Ohio to a .205 attack percentage and forced 23 attack errors.
It was a team effort for the defense. Defensive specialist Catie Fredrich finished with 21 digs, which was only third on the team. Alex Fuelling and Kylee Baker finished with 23 and 22.
The win propelled Ball State to 7-1 in the MAC, adding to the team’s four-game winning streak.
“Ohio is a team that rarely — almost never — loses at home,” Shondell said. “It was two great teams who played a great game, but we were able to come out on top.”