It almost seems inevitable that a Ball State women’s volleyball match will go five sets.

The Cardinals have played in nine five-set matches this season, posting a 5-4 record.

Head coach Steve Shondell said playing a full five-sets becomes even more difficult when it’s the second night of a back-to-back, as Ball State’s latest loss against Eastern Michigan on Saturday was.

Ball State remaining regular season schedule: 

  • 7 p.m. Thursday at Toledo 
  • 7 p.m. Saturday vs. Akron

However, redshirt junior Alex Fuelling looks at these types of matches in a positive way.

“I think once it comes to crunch time, those games like that, being in pressure matches like we are now will always benefit us,” Fuelling said. “It’ll help us physically just being in better shape pushing ourselves.”

While physical conditioning is important when playing five-set matches, Shondell said playing without the comfort of home court can also make it tougher.

Seven of the nine five-set matches the Cardinals have played this season have been away, either on the road or at a neutral tournament site.

The race to 15 in the fifth set is the difference between a win and loss for both teams.

The margin for error is slim, and the Cardinals fell behind 4-0 at the beginning of set five against the Eagles. Ball State clawed back and cut the deficit to 8-6, but ultimately fell 15-10.

“It was a real tough loss, but probably a very valuable lesson,” Shondell said. “You just can’t let up in a game like we did in game three, and good teams will come back and never quit, and we found that out tonight.”

Many of Ball State’s five setters have been within three points in the end. Fuelling said mental focus is the key to coming away with a win in those close matches.

“You just really have to focus in on those first five points, first 10 points and really focus in because any mistake counts at that point,” Fuelling said.

Ball State is currently 15-12 overall on the season and 9-5 in Mid-American Conference play.

As the conference tournament approaches, the Cardinals are using these long, hard-fought matches to prepare for the postseason.

“We’ve had two really tough five-game matches with Eastern [Michigan],” Shondell said. “Really, both matches this weekend were conference tournament type matches, high intensity and high level of play. Certainly this weekend is preparing us for the conference tournament.”