Leading 24-23 in the third set after already taking the first two, the Ball State women’s volleyball team was ready to finish off the University of Toledo.

Worthen Arena’s fans were on their feet, all 1,454 of them — the biggest attendance of the season. They were ready to explode if Ball State swept Toledo, cementing the team in first place in the Mid-American Conference West.

It never happened.

Ball State fell in the third set and then dropped the fourth and fifth, losing its final home match in five sets, 25-22, 25-21, 26-28, 23-25, 12-15.

“We had a championship style match tonight that didn’t go our way in the fifth game,” head coach Steve Shondell said. “It was a knock down drag out match.”

Shondell struggled to find words to describe the match, which featured 54 ties and 22 lead changes. Ball State’s offense struggled to find consistency, much due to Toledo libero Ellen Hays. The freshman had 25 digs and had a number of saves that would have been kills against most other teams.

The biggest change for Ball State was the reentrance of outside hitter Alex Fuelling. She missed the last four games leading up to her team’s battle against Toledo and provided a spark, as setter Jacqui Seidel made her the primary target early.

Fuelling had 16 kills through the first three sets and added five more in the fourth. Her final kill of the night came halfway through the fourth set, giving her team a 15-14 lead. After the kill, Fuelling disappeared and didn’t record another kill for the rest of the match.

It wasn’t difficult for anybody to see why. Fuelling had played every point and finished with 47 attack attempts, not to mention all the times she jumped to block. Her legs were tired and her offense suffered as a result.

“I feel like she was only at 80 percent tonight,” Shondell said. “I maybe could have rested her a little bit in the middle of the first few matches and given [Jenna] Spadafora some time.”

A shaken Seidel said the team wanted to mix up their offense attack so Toledo couldn’t focus on Fuelling. Senior outside hitter Kylee Baker finished with a team-high 49 attempts, while middle blockers Hayley Benson and Mindy Marx had 36 and 35.

Regardless of who was attacking the ball, Ball State struggled to get the ball past Toledo’s blockers. Toledo blocked 18 attempts, Brooke Frazer leading the way with 10. Although Ball State out-killed Toledo 80-66, they committed 12 more attack errors, 10 from Fuelling and 7 from Marx.

The loss drops Ball State to 22-6 on the season and 10-3 in MAC play.

“It’s hard to find words after a match like this,” Shondell said. “You’re going to go through a heartbreaking match as an athlete, but it’s how you respond, and we better respond Saturday.”