Members of the women's volleyball team celebrate after winning the match in the second game of the Active Ankle Tournament against Belmont on Aug. 28 at Worthen Arena. DN PHOTO BREANNA DAUGHERTY
Ball State women's volleyball wins 4th straight match
After a four-match losing streak, the Ball State women's volleyball team has gained momentum with four straight wins.
During their recent four-match win streak, the Cardinals have taken down some very tough opponents. This included third-ranked Miami and, most recently, Buffalo, who was on a three-game win streak heading into their matchup.
Their momentum has brought them back into the fold among the best in the conference with a 7-5 record. Though that would put them sixth in the seeding, they only sit a game out of the tie for fourth place and have two games between them and the seventh seed.
Mid-American Conference West Division Rankings
Northern Illinois - (14-10, 10-2)
Western Michigan - (12-15, 8-4)
Ball State - (13-13, 7-5)
Central Michigan - (10-15, 5-7)
Eastern Michigan - (12-13, 4-8)
Toledo - (5-20, 2-10)
"We sat down and really looked at what we needed to do to get ourselves back into playing well," senior outside hitter Alex Fuelling said. "When we faced Ohio, even though we lost, we played really well and felt things start to click, and that has brought us to this point."
The biggest change for the Cardinals has been their attack. The mistakes that were happening were something head coach Steve Shondell felt was hurting them.
In their five-game losing streak before these last four games, Ball State averaged 29 attack errors. In the last four games, that number has dropped to 14.75 attack errors a game.
"We aren't beating ourselves anymore. We are so much more consistent with our hits and forcing our opponents to beat us for every point," Shondell said.
Along with holding down the errors to a minimum, the attack percentage has shot up. In the Cardinals' last three victories, the percentage has been above 60 percent, something it hasn't been above since they won against Northern Illinois a month ago.
Many players have been stepping up to increase in the attack percentage. Junior outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel has led the attack in this four-game stretch with 39 total kills, either leading or tying for most kills in three of the matches. Fuelling is right behind her with 34 kills, back into her form before the knee injury earlier this season.
Senior Amanda Raker had a career game against Toledo Oct. 29, going a perfect nine for nine in kills.
"I feel that, with this team, anyone can go out there and produce and get us points, and it'll be someone different almost every night that steps up," Fuelling said.
The strong offensive attack has led them to dominating wins, as the Cardinals have won 12 straight sets, not dropping a single set in any of their last four wins.
Though they have won in such dominant fashion, the team isn't focused on that aspect.
"The set streak hasn't been important to us, as we have only been focused on our play," Raker said. "Our play has really stepped up these past few weeks, and we are still trying to make it better because we constantly want to be better and be ready for the MAC tournament."
Ball State will have another big test this coming up Nov. 6 and 7 as they travel to Northern Illinois (14-10; 10-2 MAC) and Western Michigan (12-15; 8-4 MAC), the second and fifth seeds in the conference.
Northern Illinois has only lost once at home in the conference, and Western Michigan beat Ball State earlier this season in Muncie. Though Shondell knows it will be a tough last road weekend, he sees it as a great opportunity for his players.
"This weekend is going to be a great chance for us to see exactly where we are right now as a team," Shondell said. "What we learn from this will be great for when we begin the tournament and use what we learn to be prepared for it."
The Cardinals' next match will be Nov. 6 in Kalamazoo, Mich., where they take on Western Michigan.