Freshman middle hitter Sydnee VanBeek hits the ball during Ball State's game against Western Michigan on Nov. 11. Ball State won 3-1. VanBeek led the Cardinals with a career-high 13 kills, 16 points and 4 digs. Kara Berg // DN
Strong defense leads Cardinals to 3-1 win over Western Michigan
Tied 4-4 early in the fourth set, senior outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel’s block at the net got Ball State women's volleyball fired up.
After that block, the Cardinals would never trail in the match again and went on 6-0 and 7-0 runs to defeat Western Michigan 3-1 (25-21, 25-18, 12-25, 25-14).
“Our defense was incredible,” head coach Kelli Miller said. “I thought our back line made more plays tonight than they had the entire season.”
Kills: Sydnee VanBeek - 13*
Assists: McCallen Kennedy - 35
Digs: Kate Avila - 25
Blocks: Avery Devoe - 6
Freshman middle hitter Sydnee VanBeek led the Cardinals with a career-high 13 kills, 16 points and 4 digs.
VanBeek and junior setter McCallen Kennedy got in a rhythm early and let that carry them throughout the rest of the match.
“Me and Mac [McCallen Kennedy] have been connecting like no other,” VanBeek said. “And our passers have been just laying it in there perfect, we’ve all been working together.”
The Cardinals started off the match strong, taking a 7-1 lead early in the first set. The Cardinals went on runs of 4-0 or greater seven times in tonight’s match, which is something that Miller said was an emphasis in this week’s practice.
“I think at times in the past we would get off to a quick five point start but we’d have trouble maintaining it,” Miller said. “I think when you have a good urgency about what you’re doing, it’s been followed by some great momentum.”
The strong defense from the Cardinals really started to show up in the second set. Ball State allowed Western Michigan to go on a 3-0 run midway through the set to take a 10-9 lead but strong blocks from sophomore middle hitter Avery Devoe and junior outside hitter Sabrina Mangapora allowed the Cardinals to gain momentum.
“I was really all over the backcourt in practice this week and I thought they translated that instantly into the match tonight,” Miller said. “I think tonight was just a glimpse of how good that we can be defensively.”
After dropping the third set 25-12, Miller looked for some veteran leadership for the fourth set and senior outside hitter Mackenzie Kitchel stepped up. Kitchel had 3 kills in the fourth set alone (6 total) and also added 3 digs in the final set (6 total).
The Cardinals (13-16, 9-6) will finish their regular season at home at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 against Northern Illinois (22-5, 14-1 MAC).