The Ball State University women's volleyball team walked into the Convocation Center with the deck stacked against them. Ohio University was ranked No. 24 in the RPI and had only dropped two sets in Mid-American Conference action all season. On top of that, it was Homecoming Weekend in Athens.
Despite all the reasons screaming out that the Ball State had little chance of pulling the upset Saturday night at Ohio, they almost did three times. In the end, the Bobcats prevailed, edging out the Cardinals in all three sets, 25-22, 25-23, 25-23.
"It's great to see us go out there and play that way, taking the top team in our conference in the set. We had our chances to pull ahead and we played a consistent match," coach Dave Boos said. "There are a lot of positives to take from this despite it being a loss. We fought against a quality opponent with a great senior class at their place on Homecoming."
On multiple occasions, the two squads took turns going on impressive runs to grab control of each set, meaning each team was forced to rally several times.
"We saw how close we are to beating teams like Ohio," libero Kaylee Schembra said. "Even though we lost, we fought to the end. We have gotten so much better at fighting to the end unlike last year. Last year, we would just give up when we got down, but not this year."
A determining factor in the result for the Cardinals was ball handling.
"The more we handle the ball better, the more equal our offense will be," Boos said. "The story of the night was ball handling. We have to find ways to have ball handling at the highest level to beat a dominant force like Ohio."
Senior Alisha Green led the charge offensively for Ball State, posting 12 kills. Schembra paced the Cardinals with 19 digs defensively.
"It was really exciting tonight. I don't think they expected us to play as well as we did. It was really competitive. I was really happy with the effort we had," Green said. "It was really frustrating knowing we could have won the sets, but at the same time it's a motivation for us to go back and work on things. I hope we get another shot at them."
Even though the Cardinals came out of the weekend empty handed, optimism runs abound.
"The MAC is really up in the air this year. You have to come ready to go. We're starting to catch our stride and ready to get after it in the back half. We've been playing very comfortable at home this year which can help us in the back half of the MAC," Boos said. "We want to put ourselves in the best position possible, a lot of teams are very even right now. It's anybody's game."
The MAC West standings were shuffled with a wild and crazy weekend. MAC West leader Western Michigan University tasted defeat twice, falling to Akron University and the University at Buffalo. They lead Northern Illinois University by one game. Ball State is currently in fourth place, trailing Western Michigan by three games with eight to go.
"Knowing we play like this, playing as well as we did tonight helps with our confidence," Schembra said. "We know we'll be unstoppable if we keep it up."