WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: Shondell begins Ball State tenure with Cougar Classic win

Good teams find a way to win games, even when fighting fatigue from playing two matches in one day.

That's what Ball State women's volleyball team did Saturday, winning the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougar Classic. Ball State swept its way through the weekend, defeating each opponent in three sets. The Cardinals defeated the host Cougars 25-23, 25-20, 25-18 to finish the weekend 3-0.

"This was a tournament that we wanted to start establishing an identity and seeing if this is the team we've seen in practice," Ball State coach Steve Shondell said. "We can't be content with this, and we won't be.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg."

The impressive play of freshmen outside hitters Kylee Baker and Whitney Heeres was the story for most of the weekend, while junior middle blocker Kelsey Brandl continued a string of good performances she began last season.

Baker posted 30 kills in the first two matches before being held to just four by SIUE. Heeres had 24 in the first two matches, while adding nine against the Cougars.

"We all wanted to come out strong, play our hardest and control our side of the court," Heeres said. "It feels good to just get the first wins in and getting comfortable on the court with each other."

SIUE challenged Ball State in the opening set. Multiple ball handling and service errors helped the Cougars, but the Cardinals showed poise and held of the hosts 25-23.

"I thought we competed hard. It's about finding a way to complete matches," SIUE coach Todd Gober said. "We knew the only way to challenge them was to knock them out of system. We did that a little, but not enough."

Ball State was sharper with ball handling in the second and third sets, pulling out to big leads. The Cougars rallied each time.

When SIUE drew even, Ball State used their physical presence at the net to end the threat. The Cardinals had an overwhelming 11-2 advantage in blocking.

"Blocking is a really big advantage with having all three [Heeres and Charde' Phillips] of us up front," Brandl said. "We all pose a threat. To hit around a huge block is really impossible, so it's a big tool. No one will be able to stop us [from blocking] if we stay healthy."


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