With the Cardinals down 25-26 to the Akron Zips late in the second set, Ball State women's volleyball head coach Kelli Miller substituted in senior outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel for some veteran leadership.

Kitchel tied the game with a kill and then helped the Cardinals with some great passing to give the Cardinals a 29-27 set win and a 2-0 set lead.

“When you have a core group that’s pretty young, it’s great to have people that we can just look to stay calm and keep us composed,” Miller said.

Match Leaders:

Kills: Sydnee VanBeek, 10*

Assists: McCallen Kennedy, 36

Digs: Kate Avila, 12

Blocks: Avery Devoe, 6

* = career high 

The Cardinals went on a 12-5 run in the third set to end the match and defeat the Zips 3-0 (25-20, 29-27, 25-17).

“It’s really important to have that going down the stretch in high-pressure situations,” Miller said.

Kitchel had seven kills and three blocks with several of them coming late in the sets.

“I don’t think there was one second where we were out there thinking, ‘Oh no, we could lose this,’” Kitchel said. “We just kind of played smart and kept challenging them and I don’t think they could keep up to speed with that."

The Cardinals kept a balanced attack in the match with five players with seven or more kills. Freshman middle hitter Sydnee VanBeek led the team with a career high 10 kills. 

After not having a major role in the beginning of the season, VanBeek has seen more playing time appearing in 17 of the Cardinals' last 19 sets.

Miller said VanBeek was plagued with injuries early in the season and couldn't consistently stay in the flow of the game.

"Now she’s got all kind of confidence with how well she’s playing and she’s really earning her kills,” Miller said.

The Cardinals started the match off quick by taking a 7-2 lead in the first set thanks to strong plays from VanBeek and junior setter McCallen Kennedy. After the Zips taking a brief lead, the Cardinals ended the first set on an 11-3 run to take a lead in the match 1-0. The Zips committed nine errors in the set.

The second set was another back-and-forth set with no team gaining much of an advantage. The Cardinals had a 20-16 lead late but Akron rallied to force it to overtime where Ball State was led with a strong kill and solid passing from Kitchel.

The third set was all Ball State as they ended the set on a 12-5 run to end the match and secure their 12th win of the season. With the win, the Cardinals improve to 12-16 overall and 8-6 in MAC play. 

The Cardinals will wrap up their regular season schedule at home this weekend against Western Michigan (10-17, 5-9) at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 and against Northern Illinois (21-5, 13-1) at 7 p.m. Nov. 12.