Ball State (8-4, 0-0 MAC) finishes at the top of the Tiger Invitational, going 3-0 on the weekend after two shutouts against Towson University (4-8, 0-0 CAA) and La Salle University (7-6, 0-0 A10). 

Ball State vs. Towson 

The Cardinals entered the match against the Tigers with a 9-0 run. Senior Meg Starling led the Cardinals in set one, going five for seven in kills, followed by senior Ellie Dunn who added four. Tiger hitters senior Olamide Sonuga and junior Olivia Finckel each tallied three kills, but the Cardinals powered on and finished set one quickly at 25-12.

`“We showed a lot of physical and mental toughness this week,” Head coach Kelli Miller said. “Four matches in one week is a lot to take on, and though we started yesterday a little flat, we came back today focused and on a mission.”

Set two did not come to the Cardinals quite so easily. The two teams battled back-and-forth for the entirety of the set, the Tigers being led by Finckel, freshman Emily Jarome, and senior Jocelyn Kuilan in the front row. With two big solo blocks by freshman Reece Kral and junior Sydnee VanBeek, the Cardinals sealed the set two victory, 27-25.

The Cardinals would take set three 25-18, with Starling and Dunn leading the team in kills with a combined total of 23 on the match. Kral’s impressive performance included eight kills of her own and a .538 hitting percentage, while also adding four blocks to the board. Freshman Cathryn Starck and junior Kate Avila grabbed a combined total of 26 digs, and junior Amber Seaman racked 31 assists. Team chemistry is what Miller and her players credit their successes to.

“The team chemistry is always improving, and that really influences the way we play,” Miller said. “Chemistry is always developing and improving and when you have that, the other things improve, as well.”

Seaman also believes that the bond with her teammates is what truly allows them to perform and succeed.

“Most of us have played together for a few years and we know each other really well,” Seaman said. “Building that bond, on and off the court, is bound to help us in all areas.”

Ball State vs. LaSalle

VanBeek started off strong against the Explorers, drilling three early kills to match Explorer junior Catherine Edgington. Though the Cardinals maintained the lead throughout the set, the Explorers put up a fight, grabbing a team total of 18 digs, led by senior Jensen Sharrits with six; however, the Explorer back row was no match for VanBeek, who by the end of the set had racked six kills and a .667 hitting percentage. They would take set one 25-20.

Both teams came out to fight in the beginning of set two, keeping the score neck-and-neck at 7-7.  Once the Cardinal momentum sparked, there was no putting it out. VanBeek continued to tally kills, while sophomore Kia Holder drilled five kills throughout the set. Freshman Elizabeth Osborn led the Explorer frontline with four on the set, but her efforts fell short and the Cardinals took set two, 25-13.

To round out the match, the teams rallied back-and-forth, until Dunn rattled off three kills in a row to put the Cardinals up 15-11. The Explorers attempted to redeem themselves with points from Edgington and junior Devin Corah, but Holder and VanBeek maintained their frontline composure to finish with a Cardinal victory, 25-19.

VanBeek led the Cardinal frontline with 10 kills and a .625 percentage, followed by Dunn and Holder who each added nine. The team ended the match with a hitting percentage of .369 and a team total of 53 digs. 

“We always need to keep improving in all areas,” Miller said. “The season basically starts over as we head into MAC play next week, so we just have to refocus and not be satisfied, but continue to keep getting better in every way we can.”

The Cardinals will be in action next Friday against Western Michigan University for their first MAC match of the season.

Contact Gabi Glass with any questions at grglass@bsu.edu or on Twitter @gabiglass.