Heading into Chick Evans Field House Friday night, the women's volleyball team knew that it had a tough challenge awaiting. However, the Cardinals certainly didn't expect to be swept 3-0 by Northern Illinois and knocked out of first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division.
The Huskies (17-4 overall, 12-2 MAC) dominated the match, easily beating the Cards (16-7 overall, 12-3 MAC) 30-20, 32-30, 30-21 to earn their 14th straight victory.
"We've got nothing on the road," BSU head coach Randy Litchfield said. "We now have some serious soul-searching and character-searching to do. It is easy when you are an underclassman to criticize leadership, but when it's your time, you better be ready to walk the walk. The irony is this team practices and prepares better than any team I have coached. However, when the going gets tough, our flaws are exposed, especially on the road."
One bright spot for Ball State was senior outside attacker Megan Hammons, who became the Mid-American Conference's all-time career kills leader with 1,712 in her career.
Game one was all Huskies. NIU hit .407 as a team and rolled to a 30-20 win. But in game two, the Cards came out fighting. Trailing 30-29 after a BSU service error, Hammons hit her 11th kill from the left side to tie up the game at 30. That gave her 1,710 career kills, breaking the mark set by Bowling Green's Tammy Schiller's over ten years ago. However, NIU won the next two points to take the second game.
"Megan has had a phenomenal career and it's sad that her accomplishment came in a loss," Litchfield said. "I would also like to credit some of the players around her and my coaching staff. Megan is going to have this record for a long time. It's an honor that not only she, but our team and our program can be proud of."
In the third game, the Cardinals hit just .053 to drop their match hitting percentage to .222. Meanwhile, the Huskies finished with a .388 clip.
With just four road matches remaining, Litchfield still believes that his team can fight its way back into first place in the division.
"I believe the race is not over," Litchfield said. "I told the team that this thing could come right back in our laps and we have to be prepared. We have to win out and I am not sure we are ready for that."