Senior day at Worthen Arena sparked a memorable defensive effort and a piece-by-piece dismantling of Central Michigan University (14-10, 7-7) by the Ball State University women's volleyball team (12-15, 5-9). With the 26-24, 27-25, 25-8 win, Ball State matches its win total from last season at 12.
"It was Senior Day. We wanted to play and win one for the seniors," coach Dave Boos said.
The day started with and interesting first set. Central Michigan held control for most of the first half of the set. A series of Central Michigan attack errors, a setter dump by Brittany McGinnis and an Alisha Green block rallied the Cardinals to tie the match at 22 and force a Chippewa time-out.
A service error by each squad put the Cardinals in position to take the set with a 25-24 lead. A monster dig at the net by Kaylee Schembra to pop up a sinking ball kept the Cardinals alive and they eventually put the ball away after a long rally.
"It was exciting and wonderful getting back at them after losing to them in five at their place," senior outside hitter Elaina Kakatolis said. "It's satisfying too because they're a big rival of ours."
The second set saw several momentum shifts on each side and a very unlikely end to the set. After losing a lead and falling behind 24-22, the Cardinals fought off two set points, one via a double hit against the Chippewas on a joust at the net, which Central Michigan had won. A diving save by Schembra kept a ball alive and allowed the front line to pop the ball up and somehow get the ball over the net. The result was a double hit call on Central Michigan to tie the set.
A pair of Hannah Sullivan kills and an attack error led the Cardinals to a thrilling 27-25 set two victory.
"Central can be so arrogant," Green said after being moved back to the middle blocker position for the first time this season. "We certainly humbled them today. It felt natural being back in the middle. I blocked really well."
Instead of struggling out of the locker room, the Cardinals defense came on strong in the third set. After dropping the first two points, the Cardinals responded with three straight blocks and a Julie Breivogel kill put a 7-0 run on the board.
"It was wonderful sweeping Central. It feels great," Breivogel said. "It was fitting."
The defense was in full effect from there out. In the final set, Ball State had nine blocks and finished the match with 16. The blocks held Central Michigan to a -0.412 hitting percentage in the third set.
"We both didn't hit well today," Kakatolis said. "It was like a battle for who could hit worse."
Having such a strong effort defensively allowed the Cardinals to dominate the Chippewas.
"It's really odd, this is the second time we beat this team 25-8," Boos said. "This wasn't the prettiest match, but we had unbelievable blocking and defense."
Breivogel and Sullivan led all players with seven and six kills, respectively. Alyssa Rio notched 19 of the Cardinals 48 digs defensively.