Ball State women’s volleyball kicked off its season Aug. 26, dropping its first game to Youngstown State 3-0 (25-16, 34-32, 25-19) in the Fort Wayne Invitational.

Head coach Kelli Miller said the Cardinals need to improve their defense moving forward after commiting seven blocking errors, seven return errors, seven service errors and allowing the Penguins a .286 attack percentage

“Our block was definitely an issue,” she said. “We need to get used to different speeds and different tempos.”

Game statistics

Ball State kills/errors/attempts: 34/15/100

Youngstown State kills/errors/attempts: 51/17/119

Ball State attacking percentage: .190

Youngstown State attacking percentage: .286

Ball State team leaders

Kills: Ellie Dunn, 10

Assists: Amber Seaman, 24

Aces: Sabrina Mangapora, 2

Blocks: 5 players with 2 each

After dropping the first set, Ball State erased a 19-14 deficit in the second to force a 23-23 tie. Neither team could pull away with the requisite two-point lead, extending the set beyond the normal 25 points to win.

With the score tied 32-32, Youngstown State deflated the pro-Ball State crowd of 48. Freshman defensive specialist Kate Avila dove for the ball in the corner of the court to save the kill, but the ball fell just out of reach. The Penguins won the set on the next point, their fifth game point of the set.

Miller said she was encouraged by her team’s ability to bounce back and force five set points, but also a little worried about their inability to convert on their own set points.

“We just couldn’t get that critical point when we needed it," she said. "We kept siding out, but we were not getting the plays in transition we needed. It was good that we battled, but when we have that many opportunities we need to find a way to win.”

After losing six seniors from last season’s squad, however, Miller said she was pleased with the performance of her less-experienced players.

“Some of the younger players stepped up and played really consistent today,” Miller said. “Sabrina [Mangapora] also got a chance to come back and was really impressive in her limited time in the third set. She came out and gave us a spark. It was good to see her get back out there after missing last season due to injury.”

Sophomore outside hitter Ellie Dunn led the Cardinals with 10 kills and finished the game with a .250 attack percentage. Dunn said the team went through emotional swings throughout the match.

“I think that’s something we’re going to continue to work on,” she said. “Just staying even." 

The Cardinals will play twice Aug. 27, taking on Murray State at 10 a.m. and rounding out the Invitational against host Fort Wayne at 7 p.m.