Head coach Steve Shondell watches as Ball State battles to win the fifth set against Eastern Michigan. DN PHOTO SAMANTHA BRAMMER
WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Ball State eliminated from MAC tournament
For two straight seasons, the Ball State women’s volleyball team has swept Western Michigan in the regular season. And for two straight seasons, the Broncos have eliminated the Cardinals from the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
Ball State entered the 2014 MAC tournament as the No. 4 seed and earned a first-round bye. Western Michigan came in as the No. 5 seed and had to defeat eighth-seeded Buffalo before playing Ball State.
Ball State head coach Steve Shondell said the extra match gave the Broncos an advantage.
Set Breakdown vs. Western Michigan
“We were a little bit tight I think early on,” Shondell said. “We made a lot of unforced errors ... and unfortunately we gave up a seven-point run at the end of game two to go to the locker room down two games to zero.”
The Cardinals came out of the intermission period with new life, playing with much more intensity and aggressiveness.
Ball State took set three 25-21, and kept the match close throughout set four as the two teams traded points. Shondell said he felt the team was able to relax and regain the composure that had gotten them to this point.
“In games three and four we came out and played some of the best volleyball we’ve played all season,” Shondell said. “We put ourselves in a position to win game four.”
Leading 24-23 in the fourth game, Ball State relinquished three straight points to lose 26-23 and the match 3-1.
Shondell said one dig on game point for the Cardinals could’ve changed the outcome, but a misfortunate situation in which two Ball State players went for the ball gave the point to Western Michigan.
The Cardinals knew they would be in for a tough match, as both regular season matches against the Broncos were decided by four points in two five-set matches.
As the conference tournament setting has shown in the past, beating the same team a multitude of times is difficult to accomplish.
“You’re always going to be hungry for a team that beats you twice,” Shondell said. “We knew, just like last year, they were going to be ready to go, and I just think because they played that match the night before they were just a little bit more comfortable at the start.”
The Cardinals finished the season with a 17-13 overall record.