Cards' year ends with loss in NCAA tournament

Louisville defeats Ball State in three straight games

After racing through the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament, the Ball State women's volleyball team hit a road block Friday in the opening round of the 2002 NCAA Division 1 Women's Volleyball Championship when it fell to the University of Louisville 3-0. The loss ends Ball State's season at 25-8.

The abrupt conclusion of a season that had produced both MAC regular season and tournament championships left head coach Randy Litchfield in shock.

"It kind of makes me sick to my stomach that we have to end a really great season like this," Litchfield said. "This one leaves a bad taste in our mouth."

Ball State found itself behind most of the match. While the Cardinals were able to keep all three games close and threaten to take over on various occasions, Louisville always seemed to have an answer to stay ahead.

"It felt like we went to the midpoint of each game with a pretty big deficit," Litchfield said. "In each game we had to fight to came back and made it close at point 20, but you spend so much energy in trying to get to that point when you are playing from behind in rally scoring that it takes its toll."

For a good part of the match, Ball State struggled to get its outside hitters involved in a big way. The trio of Katie Butts, Jenna Foster and Sarah Obras combined for only 19 kills on the match. Senior middle attacker Nikki Allen paced Ball State with 11 kills on the night.

"I had a lot of setting errors and I take fault for that," sophomore setter Stacie Baldwin said. "The hitters were there, but I don't feel I gave them a perfect set every time."

While Ball State's offense was defused, Louisville's offense exploded. Sophomore outside hitter Bing Sun led the U. of L. Cardinals who tallied a match-high 18 kills.

"We let Bing Sun have a big match, and I think she is the big key to their team," Litchfield said. "We saw them lose to South Florida on videotape and she was not a big part of the match. It is pretty obvious she is a great player and we let her go off."

Ball State's defensive front had trouble all night blocking a significantly bigger Louisville team.

"They hit higher than other teams we'd faced," freshman middle attacker Kristin Westhof said. "We didn't even get that many touches and that was very frustrating."

When looking for answers for his team's less than stellar performance, Litchfield was short on conclusions. All he could seem to come up with as a possibility was the fact that Ball State's conference tournament was the previous weekend and that may have drained the Cardinals.

"We obviously weren't the same team that we've become accustom to seeing in November," Litchfield said. "Maybe that's tough to come off of."

As a team, Ball State hit .173 (44-21-133) for the match, while Louisville hit .285 (55-18-130). Louisville also held the final advantage in team blocks (8 to 2) and digs (58 to 51).


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