Volleyball wins 9th in a row

Win over MAC foe gives team cushion in division race.

On Saturday night, the Mid-American Conference West Division leading Ball State women's volleyball team welcomed second place Eastern Michigan (16-5, 5-4 MAC) to Worthen Arena. After two and a half hours, the Cardinals stood triumphant on their home floor and remained undefeated in the MAC.

Head coach Randy Litchfield said the victory was hard-fought, though, going the full five games.

"I don't know if I've ever witnessed a match that point for point was played so tough," Litchfield said. "There were very few long runs of points. It was just a slugfest with no rest."

After losing the first game, Ball State (12-6, 7-0 MAC) took the next two, but lost Game 4. That set up a deciding fifth game; a place the Cardinals are accustomed to being.

"We've been in game fives all year long," junior backcourt player Meredith Fancher said.

This Game 5 proved to be different than others so far this season.

"This had to be the toughest Game 5 we've had all year," freshman outside attacker Sarah Obras said. "Normally, we are the first ones to eight and the first ones to 15. This time we weren't the first ones to eight."

The Cardinals won game five 15-13 and therefore the match.

"A calming effect takes over this team in game five and we are sure we are going to win," Litchfield said.

Obras finished the night with a match-high 27 kills to go along with 25 digs for her second 20-20 performance of the season.

"It's about as big a line on a stat sheet as you'll ever see," Litchfield said.

Obras was not the only Cardinal to have a big night, though. Sophomore setter Stacie Baldwin recorded Ball State's first triple-double of the year with 10 kills, 70 assists and 14 digs. Senior outside attacker Katie Butts notched her ninth double-double of the season with 17 kills and 17 digs.

Meanwhile, sophomore libero Stephanie Keller paced the Cardinals on defense with a Worthen Arena record 35 digs. The record came as a surprise to Keller.

"There were quite a few balls that I should have dug that I didn't," Keller said of her performance. "I didn't think I'd be even close to 35."

The Cardinals also found a lot of help from their middle offense, which is an area of their game they have been working on lately Litchfield said.

"If you don't use the middle, you are going to have people standing on the outside just waiting," Fancher said. "If we get our middles going early in Game 1, everyone sees what happens. That's just great."