Freshman Hanna Smith (4) and second-year graduate student Mackenzie Kitchel (1) run off the court after dropping a five-set match to Fort Wayne. The Cardinals kicked off their season with three losses in the Fort Wayne Invitational. COLIN GRYLLS // DN
Ball State women's volleyball falls to Fort Wayne, Murray State
For the fourth straight year, the women’s volleyball match between Ball State and Fort Wayne came down to the fifth and final set.
Unlike the last three meetings, however, this time it was the Mastadons (2-1) that topped the Cardinals (0-3) after erasing a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 (22-25, 22-25, 25-22, 28-26, 15-5).
Head coach Kelli Miller said the proximity between Ball State and Fort Wayne ups the intensity of the annual match-up.
Ball State hitting percentage vs. Fort Wayne: .159
Fort Wayne hitting percentage: .244
Ball State hitting percentage vs. Murray State: .116
Murray State hitting percentage: .250
“It adds to the atmosphere that we’re an hour away, but both programs have a tradition of fighting, scrapping and competing," she said. "When you get two teams that are out there playing for their lives, it’ll be good matches… We were relentless and they were just a little bit better at the end than us.”
Ball State nearly finished it off in the fourth set when it fought off three game points to take a 26-25 lead on a block by junior outside hitter Sabrina Mangapora. Fort Wayne, however, responded with by scoring three consecutive points to tie the match at two sets apiece.
The Mastadons then jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first-to-15 fifth set and never looked back, winning 15-5.
Mangapora led Ball State with 17 kills against Fort Wayne. She said the Cardinals’ game against Murray State (3-0) earlier in the day sapped some of their energy.
“We went two five-set matches today, so I think just fatigue was a big part of it,” Mangapora said. “So working through practice, working through mental errors. Like being in the net when you’re tired, or serving errors when you’re tired.”
Ball State lost to Murray State 3-2 (25-16, 20-25, 25-22, 25-13, 15-10). The Racers were 27-3 last season and led the NCAA last season by holding their opponents to a .124 hitting percentage.
Murray State senior outside hitter Scottie Ingram put on a show with 29 kills in the match. By comparison, Cardinal sophomore outside hitter Ellie Dunn, who was named to the all-tournament team, led the Cardinals with 27 kills in Saturday’s games—combined.
Not many spectators were on hand to see Ingram’s performance, though she was named tournament MVP. The posted attendance for the early game was a scant 50 people. Fans of the two Indiana schools, however, packed the stands for the nightcap — 612 of them, to be exact.
Mangapora said she knew the host team of the Fort Wayne Invitational would bring a rowdy crowd.
“I said in the huddle before the game that this was going to be a new type challenge for us,” she said. “So far this season, we haven’t played in an atmosphere like this. … Despite the loss, I thought we responded really well to that.”
Dunn said the close quarters of Arnie Ball Court, listed as having a capacity of 1,800, was a unique experience, especially compared to the arenas Mid-American Conference schools usually play in.
“I think it’s definitely different,” she said. “For me, this gym resembles a high school with all of the people in your face. Usually in our conference games you don’t really have people like that.”
Ball State will look for its first win of the season in its home opener on Wednesday, Aug. 31, when it plays IUPUI at 7 p.m. in Worthen Arena.