The Ball State women's volleyball team split a pair of matches last weekend by losing to Mid-American Conference leading Akron on Friday and beating Marshall on Saturday.
Friday's match against the Zips was expected to be one of the most competitive matches of the season for the Cardinals. Instead, Akron took it to Ball State and shut the Cards out 3-0 (22-30, 26-30, 16-30).
"I think a rough week caught up with us," head coach Randy Litchfield said of the loss. "I was real worried about that, but I had no idea that we would have as little to offer as we did. We were out of it in every way, shape and form."
Many of the Cardinals had been battling flu-like symptoms during the days leading up to the Akron match. After playing Miami on Wednesday, Litchfield tried to go easy on his team in practice to give the players a chance to recover.
"It is so hard to know the right thing to do training wise," Litchfield said. "I feel like I'm in error for softening up during the week. While I'm sure it helped us physically, I think it failed to prepare us mentally."
The defeat broke Ball State's 10-match winning streak. That pattern of winning allowed for some over-confidence to sneak into the Cardinals' personality according to freshman outside attacker Sarah Obras.
"We'd taken a couple of teams for granted and toyed with them," Obras said. "We hadn't played the game we should have played and I think it showed because there was a team that was actually ready to come out and take it to us."
Akron now stands as the only undefeated team in the MAC and owns the tie breaker over Ball State who is currently second with only one loss. The season is far from over though.
"It is so common for there to be undefeated teams at the midpoint," Litchfield said. "The champion in the last three seasons has lost three matches. So the second half holds a lot of question marks."
Senior outside attacker Katie Butts led Ball State with eight kills.
On Saturday, the Cardinals came home to Worthen Arena to face off against the Thundering Herd. Ball State proved to be a different team than 24 hours prior, as it beat Marshall 3-1 (30-17, 30-25, 20-30, 30-21).
"I think the difference was that we played defense in the right spots," Butts, who notched her team-leading 11th double double of the season with 12 kills and 13 digs, said.
While the win was welcome, it fell short of Litchfield's expectations.
"I thought it would have been a nice accomplishment on our part to follow up Akron with a 3-0 win against the third best team in the league," Litchfield said.
Ball State was not able to do that when Marshall fought back in the third game. The Cardinals were able to take the fourth game though to end the match.
"This team has some pride," Litchfield said. "Sometimes I have to step on it a little bit, but I think we just got our teeth kicked in in game three and decided to put a stop to it."
Obras paced the Cardinals with a match-high 17 kills against Marshall. Sophomore libero Stephanie Keller recorded her eighth 20-plus dig match of the season with 23 digs.