WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State faces off against Northern Illinois
Ball State has seen its fair share of strong outside hitters lately.
It doesn’t get any easier Friday, when the Ball State women’s volleyball team travels to Northern Illinois University in the final weekend of the regular season.
After facing Lauren Rafdal, who leads the Mid-American Conference in kills, the Cardinals will take on Mackenzie Roddy.
Roddy is an outside hitter for the Huskies and is fifth in the MAC in kills per set. The junior has 37 kills in her last three matches, including 15 against Miami University.
She will be countered by one of the best defensive teams in the MAC. Senior libero Catie Fredrich leads a Ball State defense that’s second in the MAC in digs with 16.7 per set.
“Having everyone on the top of their game will be important,” Hayley Benson, a sophomore middle blocker, said. “We’ve got a lot of depth and diversity that goes a long way.”
That depth will be tested against Northern Illinois, which brings two players with more than 300 kills and another who is quickly approaching that mark.
By comparison, Ball State has one player who has more than 300 kills — sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling. Senior middle blocker Mindy Marx is 23 kills away from that mark, but Marx, Fuelling and Benson are the few Ball State players with more than 200 kills.
Ball State will need all those players to play well if they want to come out of DeKalb, Ill., with a win Friday night. Last time the team went on the road, it lost 3-1 to a University of Akron team that had one conference win at the time.
“Unbelievable,” Ball State head coach Steve Shondell said after the Akron loss. “All I can say is unbelievable.”
Northern Illinois isn’t an easy place to win. The team is 12-5 at home this season and has won its last three matches there, dropping two sets in the process.
With two matches remaining in the season, the Cardinals’ match against the Huskies could play a pivotal role in MAC Tournament seeding.
Ball State sits at 10-4 in the MAC while Northern Illinois is 9-5. A win for Northern Illinois would give the two teams the same record, but Northern Illinois would have the tiebreaker.
Both teams have already clinched berths in the tournament and now look to position themselves to receive the best possible position and momentum as the season closes.
The match starts at 7 p.m. at the Victor E. Court in DeKalb, Ill.