Alisha Green didn't have the ideal start to her final regular season home volleyball match for Ball State University Thursday night against the University of Toledo.
Her first three swings produced shots that sailed out of bounds, both deep and wide, as the Cardinals found themselves in an early 4-0 hole against the Rockets.
So the senior outside attacker stopped to take a breath and collect herself.
"The first three swings, I was so excited to hit the ball — I just wanted to hit that ball so bad," Green said. "And then after that, I was like, ‘OK, calm down.' And then as soon as I calmed down, I just focused in on using my athleticism."
Green wouldn't miss again, collecting 12 kills with no errors from that point on to lead the Cardinals to a 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-18) sweep of Toledo at Worthen Arena.
The win for Ball State (13-15, 6-9 Mid-American Conference) was its second straight sweep in MAC play after shutting out Central Michigan University on Sunday.
"I think the team is starting to play with a bit more confidence," coach Dave Boos said. "We talked about peaking all week."
Ball State utilized a balanced offensive attack that saw increased success as the match went on. The Cardinals had a .184 attack percentage in the first set, a .227 percentage in the second set and a .317 rate in the third.
Sophomore setter Brittany McGinnis had a match-best 40 assists, oftentimes finding Green, sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Brandl (match-best 14 kills) and junior outside hitter Hannah Sullivan (13 kills) for immediate points.
"The offense is the key," Boos said. "When we play offense like that, we're tough to stop because our defense will play at a high level all the time."
The Cardinals' defense was again led by reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Week Alyssa Rio. The junior libero collected a match-high 23 digs against Toledo (16-11, 7-8 MAC) after notching a combined 53 digs on Sunday against Central Michigan and last Friday against Eastern Michigan University.
Rio said she was happy with the play of her fellow back row specialists, sophomores Kaylee Schembra and Christie Waters.
"I think we've gotten more scrappy, which helps us to keep balls alive, make the other team make errors," Rio said. "And I think we did a good job of doing that."
Rio also said it was important to see her team close the door on the first two sets, which led to an easier third set.
"We haven't really been known for doing that," Rio said. "But I think we're starting to get better at doing it and not getting as nervous as we used to when it gets close now that we really have to win. I think staying confident really helped us pull out those last two sets."
Toledo was led on the night by sophomore outside hitter Amber DeWeerdt's team-best eight kills and 16 digs.
Boos said he was encouraged by the effort of his team, knowing that its best chance to host a first round MAC Tournament match on Nov. 17 was to defeat Toledo Thursday night and then go on the road and defeat the University of Akron on Saturday in Ball State's regular season finale.
The first task — beating Toledo — was a success.
"It's all about effort," Boos said. "The kids want it bad right now, and I think that this team continues to believe that we can go out to the MAC Tournament and do some damage, do some great things. Our goals haven't changed there, and right now the effort level continues to get better and better defensively, and the results come from that."
The Cardinals' match against Akron (14-16, 5-10 MAC) begins at 7 p.m.