Senior outside hitter Kylee Baker sends the ball over the net. Ball State will play its final home match of the season Thursday night against Toledo.
Top MAC West teams square off
Kylee Baker didn’t mince words.
“That loss never should have happened in the first place,” she said.
Ball State’s senior outside hitter remembers what happened the first time Ball State played the University of Toledo. With a 2-0 Mid-American Conference record, the women’s volleyball team traveled to Toledo in hopes of returning with a pristine 3-0 mark.
That didn’t happen. Toledo’s Lauren Rafdal went off for 28 kills in a four-set victory for the home team and left Ball State’s undefeated record shattered on the court.
“All I want to do is beat Toledo after what happened,” Baker said. “It left such a bitter taste in my mouth,”
It’s no surprise that she doesn’t have fond memories of the match, as she was barely a factor in the loss. She registered two kills on 16 attempts.
Ball State as a whole played poorly that night. Sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling led the team with 16 kills, but it took her 45 attempts to get there. The Cardinals hit just .177 for the match and committed 28 attack errors, half of them coming from Fuelling and senior Mindy Marx.
The only thing that will change between the two teams is the logo underneath the net. This time, the teams will face off tonight at Worthen Arena in Ball State’s final home match. Head coach Steve Shondell doesn’t expect to see changes from Toledo.
He said Toledo has the same players, offense, defense and lineup. He praised the experience on Toledo, saying it’s a team that doesn’t beat itself.
“They’re really consistent match in and match out,” Shondell said. “It’s pretty similar to us, actually.”
Senior libero Catie Fredrich also made it clear that she was upset with losing to Toledo and wants to even the score.
“At this point, it means everything,” Baker said. “This is it — it’s all on the line.”
Ball State comes into the match in first place in the MAC West at 10-2 while Toledo trails at 9-3. A win would put Ball State a minimum of two games ahead of everybody else in the West with just three matches left, giving them a stranglehold on the conference.
A loss would give the two teams identical 10-3 records, and Toledo would own the tiebreaker for sweeping Ball State.
The Cardinal offense could get a lift from a healthy Fuelling. The outside hitter has missed the last four games after spraining her ankle in practice but is expected to play against
Despite hitting just .200 against Toledo earlier, Fuelling is Ball State’s most aggressive offensive target.
Fuelling’s impact on the game could go a long way. Toledo ranks 10th out of 12 in the MAC in both opposing hitting percentage at .211 and digs with 15.11 per set and has struggled throughout the season at defending strong outside hitters.
With the close of the regular season just a little more than a week away, each match’s significance is magnified.
Especially one in which a win could all but seal up the MAC West.
“Rip them apart,” Fredrich said.